Take A Whip Down Merchandise Lane (John 2:12-25)

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

On June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan challenged the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to remove the Berlin Wall.
Two years and five months later, the wall separating West and East Berlin for twenty-seven years came tumbling down.

Jesus said, “[Tear down] this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

Jesus made His declaration in the breathtaking remodel of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. He was zealous for the purity of the stick and stone structure. Worshippers came there to meet with His Father. Merchandisers and money changers were defiling it.

The religious leaders questioned Jesus about the tearing down of the Temple. They did not know He “was speaking of the Temple of His body,” predicting His flesh and bone resurrection from the dead.

You and I are likewise God’s Temple.

In First Corinthians 6:19, we read, “[Your] body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God…” Your individual body is the Holy Spirit’s Temple.

In Ephesians 2:19-22, we read, “You are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy Temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” The corporate body of believers who comprise the church is the Holy Spirit’s Temple.

Jesus is zealous for you, the Temple “not made with hands” (Acts 17:24).

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Jesus Is Zealous To Safeguard You, and #2 Jesus Is Zealous To Save You.

#1 – Jesus Is Zealous To Safeguard You (v12-22)

Indiana Jones was seven years old when he saw a whip-act in a traveling circus. Later, when he accidentally fell into a wagon transporting a lion, he noticed a lion-tamer’s whip and grabbed it to fend off the animal. The rest is, as they say, fantasy.
Jesus was an accomplished whipster. Or would it be whipper? He could make a whip from “cords” and use it when the need arose.

Jesus brandishing a whip is unexpected. I never picture Him that way. Let’s take a look.

Joh 2:12  After this He went down to Capernaum, He, His mother, His brothers, and His disciples; and they did not stay there many days.

The apostle John provides a few travel notes:

Capernaum would serve as Jesus’ ministry base.

His travel team consisted of His mother and brothers, born to Mary and Joseph after Jesus. They were James, Joseph, Simon, and Jude. He also had sisters, though their number and names are not recorded (Matthew 13:56).

Also on the team were five disciples: Andrew, John, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael.

Joh 2:13  Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

Adult male Jews made an effort to attend Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Jesus had been in Jerusalem many times in His life, but not like this. He had been identified as the Messiah by John the Baptist, and He would act like it.

Joh 2:14  And He found in the Temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business.

Animal sacrifices went on from morning to evening. On Passover, thousands of additional lambs were slain. Merchandisers sold pre-inspected animals that were guaranteed “unblemished.”

Male Jews over the age of 20 were required to pay a Temple tax. Since it had to be paid in the Temple coinage, a currency exchange was necessary.

Before we criticize, let’s understand that providing animals was a terrific convenience. Think, for example, of traveling with your sacrificial lamb 80 miles from Capernaum to the Temple. A lot could happen to your unblemished animal along the way, rendering it unfit on arrival.
You would have no sacrifice. Having animals on hand to purchase was a big help.

Money changers were equally convenient. I can’t tell you what an absolute hassle it was to exchange money on trips to the Philippines in the 1980s.

The issue was how and where this was being done:

The money changers were charging exorbitant rates. They were like store owners who hike the prices of essential goods in a crisis.
The sticker price on the animals was sky-high.
The money changers and merchandisers were both doing business in what was called the Court of the Gentiles. It was a special place non-Jews could come for prayer. The business being conducted interfered with praying.

Joh 2:15  When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the Temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables.

We’re never told Jesus whipped anyone, not even animals.

You’ve heard the crack of a whip. A whip 8’ long is preferred today if you want to make it crack, but a 6-footer will do with practice.

The crack of the whip was enough to scatter the animals and have them wreak havoc. If not the crack of the whip, the sight of it would inspire animals to obedience.

On walks, I carry a flashlight that is a one-million-volt stun baton. The noise is enough to strike fear into the unleashed dogs that sense my fear and perceive me as a quick bite.

John puts the cleansing of the Temple at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. The other Gospels have it happening at the end. Most scholars agree Jesus cleansed the Temple twice.

Joh 2:16  And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!”

Jesus ‘cracked the whip,’ overturned tables, and gave verbal commands. It was a mini-riot. It went unchallenged. Seriously, where was security?

Jesus is always the highest authority. No one challenged His authority to drive-out the defilers.

The Lord has delegated His authority to us. We declare that a man can have his sins forgiven, be born-again, and enter Heaven. That is real authority.

The apostle Peter warns believers in the current Church Age that false ministers will, “In covetousness… with feigned words make merchandise of you” (Second Peter 2:3 RV).

This doesn’t mean you cannot buy or sell Christian merchandise or collect offerings.

It describes a person who covets money taking advantage of believers as a source of income for furthering their gain and not God’s Kingdom

Churches should not have the motivations of the unsaved.
They must not use the methods of the world.

We try to abide by the modern proverb, “Where God guides, God provides.”

We should not think, “Where I guide, I will manipulate and pressure God’s people to provide.”

We fall into worldly thinking about the church. If more people come to your services, and you have bigger, more modern facilities, you are seen as successful. Since success is equated with spirituality, God is blessing you. You must be special to Him. Perhaps you are more gifted than other, lesser ministers.

No; not true. Numbers and facilities are a matter of God’s grace that we cannot fathom. God looks upon the heart in a way we cannot. We can discipline ourselves not to judge by outward, physical criteria.

Joh 2:17  Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “ZEAL FOR YOUR HOUSE HAS EATEN ME UP.”

Jesus’ disciples are criticized for failing to see simple spiritual truths. This time they hit a home run. The quote is from Psalm 69:9. It was understood to be a prophecy that zeal for the Temple would characterize the Messiah.

Joh 2:18  So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?”

You could paraphrase this, “If by your zeal for the Temple you are claiming to be the Messiah, prove it to us by doing a miracle.”

Jesus performed a miracle in Cana, turning water into wine. He would perform more miracles, culminating in raising a man from the dead. The Jewish leaders won’t believe. With each miracle, they hate Jesus more until they plot His death.

Miracles, signs, and wonders followed the believers after Jesus rose from the dead. Miracles, signs, and wonders have not ceased.

You must admit, however, that they are fewer and farther between. They are as scarce among Pentecostals and Charismatics as they are among conservatives and cessationists.

Jesus came to Earth and performed the signs the Old Testament said would identify the Messiah.

Israel’s official rejection of Jesus as their Messiah put God’s program for Israel on a temporary hold and ushered in the mystery of the Church Age.

The Church Age is characterized not by signs as much as by sufferings.

The apostle Paul writes, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Colossians 1:24).

Paul understood his sufferings, and ours, were the visible reenactment of the sufferings of Jesus so that people will see the Lord’s abounding grace.

One commentator said, “God really means for the body of Christ, the church, to experience some of the suffering He experienced so that when we offer the Christ of the Cross to people, they see the Christ of the Cross in us.”

Joh 2:19  Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
Why not just say, “You’re going to kill Me, but after three days I will rise from the dead by My own power.”

It’s better for us that we discover spiritual truth through prayer and Bible reading. Jesus is a romantic and wants you to seek Him for answers and insights.

Joh 2:20  Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”

God provided Moses with plans to construct a moveable Tabernacle in the wilderness.

Approximately 500 years later, Solomon built a permanent Temple from the plans and provisions his father, King David, had left behind.

Solomon’s Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians when the Jews were taken into a 70 year captivity.

The Persians conquered the Babylonians, and King Cyrus decreed that the Jews could return to Jerusalem. They did, and over some time completed a second Temple.

Rome was their next oppressor, with Herod ruling them in the time of Jesus. He was a fantastic builder. He remodeled the second Temple into the structure we’ve all seen in mock-ups.

The bulk of the construction was completed in 10 years. The decorative work, however, was not finished until 64AD. Six years later, in 70AD, the Romans burned and destroyed the Temple.

Daniel, Ezekiel, and Jesus predicted a third Temple would be in operation during the future seven-year Great Tribulation.
There will be a Temple in Jerusalem during the Millennial Kingdom.
The Revelation declares that there will be no Temple in the future heavens and Earth because “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its Temple” (21:22).

Joh 2:21  But He was speaking of the Temple of His body.

Jesus was fully man. His physical body was the Temple of God the Holy Spirit, same as us.

We are drawn to the indwelling Holy Spirit empowering Jesus’ miraculous works. There is something first, more fundamental. As God’s Temple, Jesus walked in perfect obedience to His Father. From womb to tomb, the Lord never once strayed from the will of God. Not one time did Jesus act independent of His Father and use the prerogatives of His deity.

Jesus did no miracles for His first thirty years. He did, the Bible says, learn obedience.

The Holy Spirit empowers our obedience.

We ought to value obedience over every comfort, every advantage, every success, every desire, over our health and wealth. For example: Married believers too often value their personal happiness over their vows before God and obeying His Word. God is not against happiness, but He knows it can only be genuine if it is grounded in holiness.

Joh 2:22  Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.

Paul Little wrote a book called, Know What You Believe. You don’t know very much at the time of your conversion. You discover what you believe.

Jesus braided a whip and cleansed the Temple.

He did it to safeguard the worshippers.

Sadly, there are congregations that become spiritually unsafe. You can tell when, as Jesus’ dear sheep, you are being fleeced instead of fed. Get out!

#2 – Jesus Is Zealous To Save You (v23-25)

Sebastian the crab might comment, “Jesus was under a lot of pressure down here.” Everyone tried to influence Jesus to establish the Kingdom of God on Earth:

Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness by offering Him all the kingdoms of the world.

The crowds tried to make Him their king before it was time.

The disciples continually pressed Jesus to establish the Kingdom.

The Kingdom would be nothing without its saved citizens. The Cross must come first.

Joh 2:23  Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did.

There is a kind of belief that isn’t saving faith:

High-ranking Anglican cleric Dr. John Shepherd said in an Easter sermon in 2008, “It is important for Christians to be set free from the idea that the resurrection was an extraordinary physical event, which restored to life Jesus’ original earthly body. The resurrection of Jesus ought not to be seen in physical terms, but as a new spiritual reality.”

A survey in 2017 in once-Great Britain revealed that 25% of people who describe themselves as Christians do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus.

Here is a quote that answers that belief: “The claim of Jesus’s bodily resurrection is central to the Gospel message. Without his bodily resurrection, Jesus’s claims to divinity would be empty, and the Gospel’s claim to be the power of God for salvation would be false.”

Joh 2:24  But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men,

The Lord would not let anyone, either supernatural or human, deter Him from His commitment to His Father to die on the Cross as the last lamb.

“He knew all men” is explained in verse twenty-five:

Joh 2:25  and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.

One commentator says, “Jesus was realistic about the depth of trust in those who were now following Him. Some would endure; others would fall away. Jesus was discerning, and He knew that the faith of some followers was superficial. Some of the same people who claimed to believe in Jesus at this time would later yell, ‘Crucify Him!’”

Did Jesus know this because He was God and saw each individual’s heart? Maybe, but that gives us no example to follow as mere humans.

Jesus, as a man, “knew what was in man” the same way any of us can. We take the Word of God for it that every human is born dead in trespasses and sins and has a sin nature.

Jesus is the exception. He was virgin-born to receive a sinless human nature so He could take our sins upon Himself and give us His righteousness.

The writer to the Hebrew Christians expressed Jesus’ zeal for our salvation: “[Jesus] for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

You are the joy that was set before Him.

In the Church Age, we read that Jesus has torn down the “wall of separation” between Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2:14). Everyone who is saved becomes a living stone in the Temple on earth.

We are being individually fashioned so that when we come together, we are a building pleasing to Jesus.

Vintage Jesus (John 2:1-11)

Over one million Americans homebrew beer.

Homebrewing supplies have been in high demand nationwide during the pandemic. A major supplier of homebrewing equipment says business has increased 50%.
Home wine-making kits start at under $100.00.

Before you throw back a cold one to fight depression from COVID19, consider this news from England:

1mil additional people have become addicted to alcohol as a result of lockdowns.

The lockdowns fueled a 20% spike in alcohol-related deaths in 2020.

Jesus turned water into wine.

The Lord wasn’t a homebrewer. He was attending a wedding, and the host ran out of wine.

The lack of wine had nothing to do with drunkenness. It wasn’t like Captain Jack Sparrow wondering, “Why is the rum gone?” Wine was associated with joy:

The psalmist said, “wine… makes glad the heart of man” (104:15).
Putting it negatively, we read in Jeremiah, “Gladness and joy have been taken away… I have made the wine cease from the winepresses; no one treads them with shouts of joy” (48:33).

“Why is the wine gone?” was a social blunder from which you might never recover.

One minute there was no wine, and the next, there was new wine. It was a miracle, touted by the apostle John as “the beginning of signs Jesus did” (v11).

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 There Is No Wine For You In Religion, and #2 There Is New Wine For You In Regeneration.

#1 – There Is No Wine For You In Religion (v1-6)

You can probably name several movies whose opening scene is the end of the story that will be told. Saving Private Ryan is a particularly good example.

The opening scene of Jesus’ ministry anticipates the end of a significant portion of the Bible’s story.

Jesus will return to Earth in His Second Coming as a Bridegroom with His bride. A wedding feast follows. In the Revelation, we read, “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ ” Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready” (19:7 & 9).

Turning water into wine at the wedding anticipates the future marriage supper.

Joh 2:1  On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.

One commentator said the following about “the third day”:

The strong connection to Genesis, and specifically to creation, thus far in [John’s] Gospel suggests that the first six days of Jesus’s ministry are to be seen as parallel to the first six days of creation. Jesus, the one through whom all things were created and by whom new creation takes place, is beginning His creative activity in human history.

John only, always, calls Mary “the mother of Jesus.”

He respects her among women but never above women.

Jewish weddings followed three well-known stages:

First was the betrothal. It was a legally binding engagement that took place nine months to a year before the wedding celebration. Betrothal could not be broken except by divorce.

Second was the procession. The groom and his friends would go to fetch the bride and joyously lead her and her friends back to the house he had prepared for them.
The third stage, which is described in our text, was the wedding feast. The celebration could last for as long as a week. It was a major social event for both families and the community.

Joh 2:2  Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding.

We have met five disciples: Andrew, John, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael. We will meet the rest of the gang later in the book.

Joh 2:3  And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”

Mary is not to be referred to as the mother of God.

Mary was the human agent through whom the eternal Son of God took on a human body and a human nature and entered the world. She is never to be revered.

The mother of Jesus evidently had a role in the feast. She stepped up like a wedding coordinator. Joy was about to turn into sour grapes.

Beginning with the mother of Jesus telling Him, “They have no wine,” the dialog between them is odd. It causes scholars headaches.

Joh 2:4  Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”

“Woman” is not disrespectful. It’s equivalent to calling her, “Ma’am.” It is less intimate than “Mom.” I suggest that it has to do with something Jesus explains in Matthew’s Gospel:

Mat 12:46  While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him.
Mat 12:47  Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.”
Mat 12:48  But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?”
Mat 12:49  And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers!
Mat 12:50  For whoever does the will of My Father in Heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus did not disrespect His mother or family. When it came to salvation, however, they were no different from everyone else. “Woman” is the perfect way to address His mother to emphasize her spiritual condition. She carried baby Jesus to term, but she needed to be born-again.

“What does your concern have to do with Me?” is the English translation of the saying, “What to me and to you?” It is apparently what Jews said when something was not their responsibility. In my family, we say something attributed to Gollum: “Not its business.”

Jesus didn’t walk around doing random miracles. He hadn’t performed a miracle because John calls this the “beginning of signs” (v11). Bottom line: It is unclear what His mother expected.

“My hour has not yet come,” or similar words will occur four more times. The fact that His time had come will be mentioned three times. It puts us on notice that God has perfect timing, despite our fears to the contrary.

If His hour had not yet come, why did Jesus perform the sign?

The Expositor’s Commentary sheds some light by saying, “The whole phrase might be rendered, ‘Mother, you must let Me act here in My own way.’ ”

Jesus called her “Woman,” and now He let her know that she could not influence what He would do going forward in His ministry. He would perform His first sign, not because of His mother’s request, but because of His Father’s leading.

Joh 2:5  His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”
The mother of Jesus did not take Jesus’ words as a refusal. She seems to have understood that Jesus was no longer under her authority. She left it up to Him to do what He was going to do or not do.

Since we’ve pointed out before that Jesus only did what His Father told Him to do, we can with confidence say that He sought the Father for guidance.

Her comment has served saints for centuries as a wonderful rule of life. Dr. J. Vernon McGee said that he always wanted to preach a Mother’s Day sermon on these words.

Whatever Jesus says to you as His servant, do it.

Joh 2:6  Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece.

“The purification of the Jews” were ritual washings. They weren’t for hygiene. They were added to God’s Law by Rabbis and passed down orally from generation to generation.
Listen to these instructions about hand washing, quoted from a Jewish resource:

This may sound strange, but before washing your hands, be sure that they are clean.

Remove your rings – unless you never remove them, in which case they are considered “part of your hand.”

Fill a cup with water and pour twice on your right hand. Repeat on the left. (Left-handers reverse the order).

Pour three times on each hand making sure the water covers your entire hand until the wrist bone with each pour. Separate your fingers slightly to allow the water in between them.

After washing, lift your hands chest-high and say the prescribed blessing. (Say this blessing only if you intend to eat more than two ounces of bread).

Rub your hands together and then dry them.

Be careful not to speak or get involved in anything else until you’ve recited the blessing on your bread and swallowed some.

The Jews knew these steps like the back of their hand. At first hand, ritual washings did not seem so bad. They meant well, but purification had gradually gotten out of hand. Ordinary Jews had their hands full with extra-biblical rites and rituals. Taking matters into their own hands led to self-righteousness. The religious leaders were heavy-handed and refused to lend a helping hand. They were on-hand to criticize.

The waterpots were monuments to ritual religion.

There is no wine, so to speak, in religion, philosophy, psychology, or any of the vain pursuits of man that exclude God. They may seem to satisfy for a time, even a long time. In the end, you’re left thirsting for the joy of salvation.

Ritual religion never leads to regeneration.

#2 – There Is New Wine For You In Regeneration (v7-11)

Gimli the dwarf challenged his elf companion, Legolas, to a drinking game.

About the time the dwarf went unconscious, the elf said that he was feeling “a slight tingling sensation.”

Yes, Jesus created fermented wine. There is an argument that it was merely grape juice. Before you scoff, turning water into grape juice would be a miracle. It would bypass the natural process of grape production. The Pulpit Commentary writes, “The vine, with all its wondrous processes – the vineyard, the wine press, and other appliances – have all been dispensed with, and the same power which said, ‘Let there be light,’ called these additional elements together, originated them by His will.”

What the grape juice argument fails to consider is the fact that most often when wine is mentioned in the Bible, the context cautions that it could cause drunkenness. It is also true that the Jews diluted their wine 3-to-1 with water to avoid drunkenness.

This passage is not about whether or not a Christian can or should drink alcohol, and I don’t want to get into it. “Have it to yourself and to God.”

My only comment is a (hopefully) judgment-free observation. When I was saved in 1979, drinking alcohol was the exception, not the rule, for believers. Quite the opposite is now the case. I sincerely hope it isn’t evidence that we are becoming more like the world.

Joh 2:7  Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.

I explained at some length last week that we attribute Jesus’ walk and works on Earth in His first coming to His being submitted to His Father and empowered by the Holy Spirit. They are not works of His deity even though He was fully God and fully human. If they were performed from His deity, Jesus could not have promised, “he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father” (John 14:12).

Have you ever been in a think-tank kind of meeting in which each person must suggest a solution to the problem? Foolish plans usually get overruled if they are brought up at all. God will ask you to do things that might seem foolish.

It is comforting to know that God the Father asked Jesus to do things that seemed foolish

Filling waterpots with water makes no sense if your problem is wine-lessness. The servants would also seem like fools. Nevertheless, they obeyed Jesus.

Joh 2:8  And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it.

We aren’t told when the water was wine. Knowing God’s perfect timing I’d guess that it was the moment “the master of the feast” tasted it.

Joh 2:9  When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom.

Everything in this miracle shows no collusion between Jesus and any of the persons at the feast. This wasn’t a magician’s illusion.

No hocus pocus, only Holy Ghost-us.

Joh 2:10  And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!”

A proficient “master of the feast” had a refined palate for foods and beverages. He recognized a superior vintage when he tasted one.

Having “well drunk” doesn’t mean they were drunk. Quite the opposite. It may mean when they had drunk as much as they judged proper or as they desired. Did a guest drink too much at your wedding? He (or she) was not “well drunk.”

It strikes me odd that in a culture so stressed about hospitality that any host would plan to serve inferior beverages at any time.

Maybe the master’s saying was a maxim – a short, easily remembered expression of homespun wisdom. An example in English would be, “Birds of a feather flock together.”

Interesting thing about maxims: For most of them, there is a contrary maxim. “Birds of a feather” may “flock together,” but we also say, “Opposites attract.”

“The bigger the better” & “Good things come in small packages”

“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander” & “One man’s meat is another man’s poison”

“You’re never too old to learn” & “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”

A competing maxim to the master’s “You saved the best for last” would be, “You put your best foot forward.”

No matter how we take the master’s statement, the wine he tasted was the best he would ever taste again in his life. I remember bumper stickers that said, “God don’t make no junk.”

Joh 2:11  This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.

Saying the sign was a “beginning” puts us on notice that there is a specific set of them.

“Beginning” with turning water into wine, there are six miracles that the Gospel of John specifically identifies as “signs” (2:1-11; 4:43-54; 5:1-18; 6:1-15; 9:1-41; 11:1-57).

A “sign” makes what it stands for more evident than words. In this case, they make evident Jesus’ “glory.” Jesus performed the signs that the Jewish Scriptures attributed to the coming Messiah. His identity, His “glory,” was manifested by signs.

“His disciples believed in Him” doesn’t mean that they did not believe before the miracle. What the Lord did in Cana strengthened their belief in Him.

Jesus said, “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29). It will bring Him joy. We could go so far as to say we are His joy.

We wait for our heavenly Bridegroom. While we wait, we have, in a spiritual sense, new wine in the person of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit goes hand-in-hand with wine in the Bible:

The disciples received the promised gift of God the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and were so full of joy that they were accused of being drunk.
In the churches that were afterward founded, believers are reminded, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart” (Ephesians 5:18-19).

You and I in Christ are vessels filled to the brim with new wine.

We’ve been getting encouraged about our relationship with the Holy Spirit in these studies in the Gospel of John.

Regardless if you are a charismatic or a cessationist, the following is true for all believers:

The moment you believe and receive Jesus, you are baptized, or plunged, into the body of Jesus Christ (First Corinthians 12:13).

God the Holy Spirit indwells you (First Corinthians 6:19-20). Since He is a person, not a force, you can’t have only a part of Him. He is present in His abundance.

The empowering of the Holy Spirit was unconditionally promised you as a gift to be received, not achieved (Acts 2:28).

God says to us that He is a good, good Father who will “give” the Holy Spirit every time you ask Him (Luke 11:13).

Believe the promise… Receive the gift… Ask your Father for His Spirit.

Recruits & Ladders (John 1:35-51)

“Everything you need”

That is the promise made by a parachurch organization that offers to help you plant a church.

Their website says, “With [our] church planting [program], you’ll get personalized coaching, practical training, relevant resources, and tested strategies that work in the community in which you plant. You’ll be able to implement proven systems that will help increase the long-term success of your church plant.”

They identify three stages: Prelaunch, Launch, and Post Launch. During prelaunch, “We will outline partnership details [that’s double-speak for how much they’ll charge], discuss your salary, and explain what church planting grants you will receive. We will teach you how to raise funds [and] recruit your launch team. We can even help with the creative aspects of your church plant, such as naming, branding, and logo development.”

Welcome to the weird and wacky world of 21st-century church planting.

Answering the question, “How much money should it cost to plant a new church?” the estimate from several experts is between $300,000.00 and $500,000.00 to be raised in prelaunch.

When we came in 1985, there was $4,000.00 in the bank. Adjusting for inflation, that translates to a whopping $10,000.00 in today’s money. No wonder we were 18 years at the YMCA.

As for me and my house, we would not attend a church planted using those methods.

John the Baptist pointed his disciples to Jesus indicating to them that He was “everything they needed.”

True, Jesus wasn’t planting the church, not at first. His initial mission was no less monumental. He offered Israel the Kingdom of God on Earth.

Jesus had one nonmaterial resource. John told us verse thirty-three that God the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus from Heaven and remained upon Him.

We are baptized with the Holy Spirit at our conversion into the body of Jesus on Earth. We have the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit in abundance if we ask our Father for Him.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Jesus Says To You, “Come & See,” and #2 You Say To Everyone, “Come & See.”

#1 – Jesus Says To You, “Come & See” (v35-42)

John the Baptist and Jesus had extremely long pre-launches. Nothing mush is recorded beyond a few miraculous events surrounding their births and Jesus’ youth. Suddenly about thirty years later, in 29AD, John launched his baptism for repentance ministry:

He put on a camel’s hair garment and a leather belt.
He went out into the wilderness.
He fed on locusts dipped in wild honey.

By word of mouth, Jews from surrounding villages and towns heard about it. They flocked to John, repented, and were water baptized to prepare for the arrival of the Messiah who would baptize His followers with the Holy Spirit.

John’s only resource was the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ ministry launch was more dramatic, but only slightly. John shouted out, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” The Holy Spirit lighted upon Jesus in the form of a dove and remained on Him.

It was all very supernaturally natural. Maybe I can illustrate. Don’t bother watching Jesus Christ Superstar. The title is enough to inform you it isn’t going to be biblical. Judas is portrayed as a confused supporter of Jesus, an anti-hero with the Lord’s best interests in mind. (BTW: Any representation of Judas in a heroic light is just nonbiblical nonsense).

At one point, Judas sings,

Now why’d you choose such a backward time
And such a strange land?
If you’d come today
You could have reached a whole nation
Israel in 4BC
Had no mass communication

Mass communication would have overshadowed the supernatural.

Joh 1:35  Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples.

Multitudes were coming out to be baptized. There would be a lot of logistics involved. People would need assistance, have questions. Some of those John baptized stayed and served as his disciples. They picked up the slack so John could baptize more people. There was no plan, only servants.

Joh 1:36  And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!”

God sent John to identify to Israel their Messiah who must first be slaughtered as a substitutionary sacrifice. He was on message, even though it was not a popular one.

He didn’t look at any demographic studies or poll people to hear what they wanted in a preacher.
He wasn’t concerned that there were no facilities or services of any kind where he’d be baptizing.

Imagine how ridiculous if John had applied for a grant.

Joh 1:37  The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.

I want to think that John was excited to see these two disciples follow. These disciples had heard his message had received it. The apostle John would write in his third letter, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (1:4).

Joh 1:38  Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are You staying?”

It’s common in movies to have a follow-on-foot scene. Often the person being followed will turn and confront the follower.

“What do you seek?” are the first recorded words of Jesus in this Gospel. Humans are seekers because God has put eternity in our hearts. Nothing and no one other than Jesus can satisfy us. God wired us that way. What we seek is to fill the void only God can fill.

Their response seems off base. “We’re stalking You and want to know where You live!”

Joh 1:39  He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day (now it was about the tenth hour).

Jesus showed them spiritual hospitality, and they talked until 4pm. The Lord started His ministry by serving people His Father brought to Him.

Unless you are a hermit (which I’m guessing you are not since you are here!), serve people and you will discover your gifts and the works God has planned for you. Don’t plan to serve potential people in the future. Serve right now those who seek Jesus. It’s really that simple. Why do we hesitate? There’s no safety net.

Joh 1:40  One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.

It’s almost certain that the other guy was John, the writer of this Gospel. He refuses to draw attention to himself.

Joh 1:41  He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ).

Family’s are weird. You know what I mean because it’s almost Thanksgiving. Conan O’Brien tweeted, “If you want to avoid seeing your family this Thanksgiving, be sure to book a flight on American or Southwest.”

Nonetheless, your family is typically your first ministry. Especially if you were saved later in life. The people who know you best will see the transformation within you thanks to the indwelling Holy Spirit. It’s as if Jesus puts you in front of them to say, “ ‘Come & see’ what I’ve done for Gene. It is what I will do for you.”

Joh 1:42  And he brought him to Jesus. Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated, A Stone).

We tend to follow the interpretive path that leads to why Cephas, who we know as Peter, was called “A Stone.”

If you were Jewish, your first instinct would be to recall men and women in the Scriptures that had their names changed for the better by God:

Abram was renamed Abraham.
Sarai was renamed Sarah.
Jacob was renamed Israel.

A name change announces that God Who has begun His good work in you will complete what He started.

Jesus says to us, “Come & see that I have a new name for you.”

In the Revelation, Jesus says, “To him who overcomes… I will give… a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” ’

“Him who overcomes” is synonymous with being a Christian. I don’t mind my name. My parents lived in a simpler era where no one was named Apple or Blanket. I am excited to hear Jesus call me by my new name. It will be perfect.

Nonbeliever, Jesus is calling you to “Come & see” Him on the Cross, dying in your place for your sin as the Last Lamb.

Believer, keep coming. Don’t veer off; don’t stop short. “Come & see” the good works God has prepared for you.

#2 – You Say To Everyone, “Come & See” (v43-51)

Lauren Faulkner was my co-worker in 1979. God used him to bring me to salvation and point me in the right direction.

By far, most conversions involve the witness of a family member, a friend, a co-worker, or a stranger. Someone we would call a nobody, a “whosoever.”

That’s me; that’s you. We are somebody’s nobody.

Joh 1:43  The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.”

When He was born, Jesus added a sinless human nature to His deity. Jesus is fully God and fully human in a union we cannot understand.

His unique God-man status confuses us. One scholar writes, “He knew people’s thoughts (Mark 2:8), was able to distinguish true believers from nonbelievers (John 6:64), knew “from the beginning” Judas would betray Him (John 6:64), and knew “all things” (John 16:30). On the other hand, He “increased in wisdom” (Luke 2:52) and did not know the day or hour of His Second Coming (Mark 13:32).”

We need to adopt a perspective going forward. Let’s survey a few verses that can give us insight:

Joh 5:19 “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.” Jesus never acted independently. He was fully God and fully man but acted on Earth as a man submitted to God the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Joh 14:1 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father” (John 14:12). If Jesus did His works as God, if they were works of His deity, we would not be able to do them.
Joh 14:16  “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever…” Jesus was promising to send the gift of the Holy Spirit to empower His followers in the same manner the Holy Spirit empowered Him.

Jesus did His “works” as a man empowered by the Holy Spirit for our example. He set aside the independent use of His deity. If He did His works employing His deity, how could we ever hope to do them as mere humans? We couldn’t.

Jesus “found Phillip” means He was led to find Phillip, acting in concert with His Father. Likewise He wanted to go to Galilee because His Father was prompting Him.

Joh 1:44  Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.

Jesus will pronounce judgment on the people of Bethsaida because they reject the witness of His miracles and do not repent of their sins (Matthew 11:21). These three men represent God’s grace in salvation. He called them out from a wicked town. He would have saved any in Bethsaida who repented and received Him.

Joh 1:45  Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

Moses told Israel to look for the coming of a great Prophet.
The other prophets of the Old Testament said He would be the One upon whom the Holy Spirit remained.

Philip shared the Lord with Nathanael, but he was wrong in the details:

Although Jesus grew up in Nazareth, He was born in Bethlehem.
Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father.

You and I get it wrong sometimes when sharing Jesus with others. God is limitlessly gracious. He covers for us time and again. Share what you know.
Joh 1:46  And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

Nazareth was an obscure, off-the-beaten trail village. It is not once mentioned in the Jewish Scriptures. Surely someone as famous and powerful as the Messiah would not be associated with such humble beginnings and background.

Jesus invited Andrew and John, “Come & see.” Philip invited Nathanael, “Come & see.” In both cases, there was a responsibility to act on what they’d been told.

Joh 1:47  Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!”

Jesus made a statement that showed He knew Nathanael’s inner thoughts. Jesus was omniscient, but we’re understanding Him acting as human walking in dependence upon His Father in the Spirit’s power.

Jesus was exercising what will later be labeled “the word of knowledge.” It is the Holy Spirit giving you knowledge you cannot otherwise acquire.

Joh 1:48  Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”

Messianic Jews studied under the shade of fig trees because the tree was the symbol of the nation of Israel and because of God’s promise to bless Israel in the future. Zechariah 3:10 says, “In that day,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘Everyone will invite his neighbor Under his vine and under his fig tree.’ ”

Jesus knew Nathanael’s heart and his habits. Jesus was omniscient, but this is the Holy Spirit giving Him knowledge.

Joh 1:49  Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

Jesus’ exercise of the word of knowledge brought glory to God.
Our gifts are not, as Warren Wiersbe says, “Toys to play with.” They are for ministering to others.

Nathanael’s reaction seems extreme. Someone may have told Jesus that Nathanael had the reputation of being without deceit.

It was a good guess that he read under fig trees. The following two verses put the entire scene into perspective.

Joh 1:50  Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”
Joh 1:51  And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see Heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

“Deceit,” or “guile,” as some Bibles translate it, is the word for “Jacob.” Jesus knew the very portion of Scripture Nathanael was reading under the fig tree. It is from Genesis: “[Jacob] dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to Heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it” (28:12).

Jesus quoted the passage, even giving the correct order of the words “ascending and descending.”

Putting it all together you see why Nathanael’s mind was blown.
Jesus knew his heart, saw him under a fig tree, and told him what he was reading. Then He revealed that it was a message to Nathanael, a prophecy of things to come. To top it off, Jesus was claiming that the ladder represented Him.

O, yeah, this is the Messiah!

Jesus used the term “Son of Man” of Himself more than eighty times. It underscores Jesus’ identifying with us as human beings. He is the Son of Man in that He is our example of a man upon whom the Holy Spirit remains.

As far as church planting, we say this: You’re the church, and God has planted you in your life and its circumstances. Tell others to “Come and see” Jesus and watch what happens.

This Lamb Is Your Lamb, This Lamb Is My Lamb, This Lamb Was Sent For You And Me (John 1:29-34)

Boxers boast some of the fiercest nicknames in professional sports.

“Iron” Mike Tyson… Tommy “The Hitman” Hearns… Rubin “Hurricane” Carter… Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini… “Merciless” Ray Mercer… James “Bonecrusher” Smith… “Raging Bull” Jake Lamotta… “The Brockton Bomber” Rocky Marciano… Hector “Macho” Camacho.

Fictional fighter Apollo Creed was “The Master of Disaster,” “The Dancing Destroyer,” “The King of Sting,” “The Prince of Punch,” and “The Count of Monte Fisto.”

Compare these nicknames; and, yes, they are real:

“The Punching Postman” (Tony Thornton).
“Wimpy” (Jerry Halstead).
“The Ding-a-Ling Man” (Darnell Wilson).

Those nicknames don’t quite have the same effect.

Announcing Jesus to the world, John the Baptist said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

“The Lamb of God” may not sound fierce. Consider this: The last book of the New Testament, the Revelation, describes the spiritual warfare by which Satan, sin, and death are once-for-all defeated. Jesus is called “The Lamb of God” twenty-nine times in the Revelation.

Satan boasts the title, “The Roaring Lion,” who goes about seeking those he can devour (First Peter 5:8). Lamb versus Lion and the Lamb wins easily.

Properly understood, “Lamb” is the most powerful title in the universe.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 John Baptized The Lamb And He Received God The Holy Spirit, and #2 The Lamb Baptizes You And You Receive God The Holy Spirit.

#1 – John Baptized The Lamb And He Received God The Holy Spirit (v29-31)

The Roaring Lion has other powerful titles: “The Ruler of This World,” “The Prince of the Power of the Air,” “The Dragon,” “The Murderer,” “The Accuser,” and “The Devil.” He masquerades as an “Angel of Light” (Second Corinthians 11:14).

Jesus will first incarcerate him, then cast him into the Lake of Fire, where he will suffer eternal conscious torment (Revelation 20:10).

As Apollo Creed once said to Rocky Balboa, “Ain’t gonna be no rematch.”

I think we are sufficiently convinced that “The Lamb of God” is quite a title.

Joh 1:29  The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

This is another masterful, carefully crafted verse. It is at once simple and sublime. It’s best to start with the rich meaning of “The Lamb of God.”

The Jews coming out to hear John preach grew up sacrificing lambs. The shedding of innocent blood was necessary for a sinful man to approach the holy God.

The person offering the sacrifice lay his hands upon the animal to symbolize that it was taking his place. 
Then the person making the sacrifice had to kill the animal, which was usually done by cutting its throat with a sharp knife. It was brutal and bloody.

Priests slaughtered two sacrificial lambs every day in the Temple, morning and evening.
Whenever necessary, a Jew could bring an animal for a sin offering, a burnt offering, a peace offering, or a trespass offering.
Annually the Jews were to celebrate their Exodus from Egypt by each family sacrificing a lamb at Passover.

It’s anybody’s guess how many animals were offered during the years that the Temple was in operation. Not to mention animal sacrifices for the 2500 years between Adam and Moses.

When John identified Jesus as “The Lamb of God,” it was a stunning pronouncement:

It meant that all the lambs previously sacrificed anticipated His coming to be the Last Lamb.
It told that Jesus would be slaughtered as a sacrificial lamb.

Jesus is “The Lamb of God.” God the Father sent Jesus, He gave Jesus to the human race to be our Lamb. He is the only Lamb God has provided. Believing in His substitutionary death and resurrection is the exclusive way you can be saved.

In Avengers: Infinity War, Peter Parker asks his best friend to cause a distraction so he can exit the bus without being seen. Easy-peasy, because when Ned looks out the window, he is startled to see a spaceship and yells out, “We’re all gonna die! It’s a spaceship!”

When John the Baptist says, “Behold!” it has that kind of impact. Only in the case of Jesus, it’s because those who receive Him are “all gonna live!”

Jesus’ sacrifice will “take away the sin of the world.” “Sin” is singular, meaning all sin, including the sin nature we inherit from our original parents, Adam and Eve. The death of The Lamb of God solves the universal problem of sin.

Animal sacrifices were never meant to be sufficient to “take away” sin once-and-for-all. They were a temporary fix.
My Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon started leaking radiator fluid. It was Christmastime in the 1980s, and we were leaving SoCal to return home. My brother put Stop Leak in it. We limped home on that temporary fix. What it needed was a new radiator.

Jesus’ sacrifice was permanent. On the Cross, at the precise moment thousands of Passover lambs were being slaughtered in the Temple, Jesus cried out, “It is finished!”

Every person, everywhere, for all time, is included in “of the world.” Let me put it another way. Can you imagine Jesus saying to anyone, “I’m sorry, but I didn’t die for you?”

Not everyone will be saved. Only those who believe and receive the Lord’s sacrifice on their behalf and in their place are saved.

Joh 1:30  This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’

John was older than Jesus, but he said Jesus was “before me.” He may have spoken more than he knew, but this is a declaration of Jesus’ preexistence. A Person called the Word was with God and was God. The Word was Jesus.

This is the third time John has said Jesus “is preferred before me” (v15, 27, 30). He was all about people beholding Jesus. John did nothing to call attention to himself. His was genuine humility. He did not care what others thought about him or how he was treated.

John the Baptist knew that God didn’t need him. There was nothing special about him that caused God to choose him to be Jesus’ forerunner.

I’d rather know that God wants me than needs me.
Were you ever the last person chosen in a schoolyard pick? God doesn’t need me, but He wants me. I am always His first pick. And somehow, so are each of you.

I’m an absolute zero but God saved me, and wants me to partner with Him in the Gospel.

Joh 1:31  I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”

John did not know that his cousin was the Messiah until God identified Jesus to him.

John baptized “with water” hints that the Messiah would baptize using another medium.

Did you know that there are around eight hundred people who consider themselves religious Samaritans?

After Solomon’s death, Israel split:

The nation in the north was called Israel. Their capital was Samaria. They set up a system of Temple worship on Mount Gerizim.
The nation to the south was called Judah. They continued to worship in the prescribed way in the Jerusalem Temple.

The Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom of Israel, and those tribes were scattered.

The eight hundred Samaritans claim their direct descent from those Jews who remained.

According to National Geographic, “They consider themselves the true observers of Israelite religion, and view Judaism as a religious practice corrupted during the Babylonian exile.” At their annual Passover, dozens of lambs are sacrificed.

There is a strong movement in Israel to rebuild the Temple and reinstate animal sacrifice.

Guys, that is all over for now, in the current Church Age we are in. “Behold!” Jesus, God’s Lamb, Who takes away sin once-for-all for those who believe and receive Him.

#2 – The Lamb Baptizes You And You Receive God The Holy Spirit (v32-34)

The Fellowship of the Ring were forced by evil circumstances to go through the Mines of Moria on their way to Mordor. They came to a place where Gandalf must choose from several different paths.

On your journey through the rich veins of spiritual wisdom and insight in the Bible, you come to places where you must choose from different interpretations of certain nonessential (but nevertheless important) positions.

One of those places is what is called “Spirit baptism,” or “the Baptism with the Holy Spirit.”

We’re going to talk about the controversy a little in a moment. First, we want to keep beholding Jesus because whatever you choose to believe about the Spirit and baptism, Jesus is the Baptizer.

Joh 1:32  And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from Heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him.

There was a visible manifestation of the Spirit that looked like a dove to John and those who saw it.

Jesus was not without the Holy Spirit before His baptism. The Spirit of God came upon Him in a special empowering for the earthly ministry He was embarking upon.

John was “sent” to connect Jesus to the prophecies of the Messiah. One commentator writes,

Jesus is “the coming Davidic king” upon whom the Lord promised to pour out his Spirit in Isaiah 11:1-9; He is the servant/elect one upon whom God will put His Spirit in Isaiah 42:1; He is the prophet who announces, “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor” in Isaiah 61:1.

Our text is not a teaching on the baptism with the Holy Spirit. It is a testimony that Jesus is, in fact, the Messiah, and part of the evidence is John’s testimony that the Holy Spirit remained upon Him.

God the Holy Spirit was not resident in Old Testament believers the way He is in the Church Age:

King David writes, “Do not take Your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11).
Samson is an example of a believer who had the Spirit taken away from him for a time.

The Messiah would bring a new relationship with the Holy Spirit. He would abide with us, in us. For example, Ezekiel writes, “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh…” (11:19).

Joh 1:33  I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’

John did not know Jesus was the Messiah until the day He presented Himself to be water baptized.

John’s water baptizing was a physical illustration of Jesus baptizing with the Holy Spirit. Jesus received the Holy Spirit, and He would baptize His believers with the Holy Spirit.

The apostle John is the only gospel writer that does not call John “the Baptist.”

Jesus is the true “baptist,” baptizing with the Holy Spirit, not water.

Joh 1:34  And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”

The human cousin that John pointed out and identified, Jesus, was simultaneously the unique “Son of God.” A commentator writes, “While believers are children of God through the new birth, Jesus is the eternal Son of God. He stands in a unique relationship with the Father. The Jews recognized that when Jesus called God His own Father, He was making Himself equal with God (John 5:18).”

Jesus is the promised baptizer with the Holy Spirit. Not too much else here to help us decide what we believe about the Doctrine of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit.

If you haven’t discovered it, the Blue Letter Bible is a terrific online resource. It’s available as an app and at blueletterbible.org.

They identify several positions on when a believer receives what the Bible labels the baptism with the Holy Spirit:

The Baptism with the Holy Spirit is received once at the moment of your salvation.
The Baptism with the Holy Spirit may be received when a person is saved, or there may be a delay.
The Baptism with the Holy Spirit is always received after a person is saved, and there will be an outward manifestation of Him.

We can dismiss #3. It is altogether contrary to the teaching of the Bible. Our answer, if we can call it that, is one of the other two positions.

We read about Spirit baptism in First Corinthians 12:12-13, “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free – and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.”

The moment you are saved, God the Holy Spirit “baptizes” you. He places you in the body of Christ. It is a spiritual immersion. You become spiritually connected to every other believer.

It is, therefore, true that a Baptism with the Holy Spirit happens the moment you are saved.

Those who hold that the baptism with the Spirit happens once at conversion nevertheless teach that a believer needs fresh “fillings” with the Holy Spirit.

Charismatic scholar Gordon Fee writes,

[The early church] simply did not think of Christian initiation as a two-stage process. For them, to be Christian meant to have the Spirit. To be “spiritual,” therefore, did not mean to be some kind of special Christian. For them, to be spiritual meant to be a Christian – not over against a nominal or carnal Christian, but over against a non-Christian, one who does not have the Spirit.

It sounds like we have chosen the first position. Not so fast. Gordon Fee goes on to say,

What we must understand is that the Spirit [is] the chief element, the primary ingredient, of [our] new existence. [It] is not merely a matter of getting saved, forgiven, and prepared for Heaven.

It [is] above all else to receive the Spirit, to walk with power.”

Ideally, you are saved and begin walking in the empowering of the indwelling Holy Spirit. I said “ideally” because that isn’t always the case. Giants of the faith like D.L. Moody and R.A. Torrey speak of further experiencing the Holy Spirit in their lives. Moody wrote,

I think it is clearly taught in Scripture that every believer has the Holy Ghost dwelling in him. He may be quenching the Spirit of God, and he may not glorify God as he should, but if he is a believer on the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost dwells in him… Though Christian men and women have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, yet He is not dwelling within them in power; in other words, God has a great many sons and daughters without power.

What if you are saved but are not experiencing the Holy Spirit powerfully in your life? Consider the following:

Jesus spoke to His disciples of a coming, further baptism with the Holy Spirit, calling it “the Promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4).
Twice in the Book of Acts, this baptism is called “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (2:38, 10:45).
In the Gospel of Luke, we read, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13).

Promises are kept by the Promiser. They don’t depend upon the promisee. You have been promised the power of the Holy Spirit to live your life.
Gifts are given freely to be received by the giftee with no prerequisite.
Asking God for the Holy Spirit is always answered, “Yes.”

The baptism with the Holy Spirit for empowered living is a promised gift your Heavenly Father does not withhold when you ask.

It is normal to be enabled to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit from Day One of being immersed into the body of Christ. If you’re not experiencing that power, you can experience it.

The best ‘position’ to take is summarized by Moody: “The Holy Spirit in us is one thing, and the Holy Spirit on us is another.”

God the Holy Spirit is a promised gift that the Lord cannot withhold if you simply ask for Him.

Ask…Believe…Receive…Repeat when if and when it is necessary.

Born To Loose (John 1:19-28)

@PreachersNSneakers

… Is an Instagram account that posts
screenshots of megachurch pastors next to price tags and the street value of shoes they are wearing in the pulpit.

Besides $1000 classic Jordans and $3200 Air Yeezy 2 Pure Platinums, the account started revealing other expensive items:

A $2000 Louis Vuitton laptop case.
A $2500 Ricci crocodile belt.
A $2000 Gucci backpack.

Reactions to the site are predictably polarized:

One person commented, “Everyone spends money in ways others think are an absurd waste. Just because nobody is scrutinizing your finances doesn’t mean you wouldn’t or don’t fall into similar indulgences. So lighten up.”

Another person wrote, “Pass the collection plate; daddy needs a new pair of shoes.”

(I’m fortunate that no one has the account @PreachersNCoffee)

If John the Baptist had an Instagram account, it would have been called @PreachersNSandals.

He says, “It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose” (v27).

I’ll organize my comments around two questions suggested by the text: #1 Are You A Voicer?, and #2 Are You A Looser?

#1 – Are You A Voicer? (v19-23)

I don’t watch The Voice, but I understand that the judges don’t see the contestants, not at first. They hear the voice then make their decision.

John the Baptist will reduce himself to nothing more than a “voice crying in the wilderness” (v23). He wanted to be heard and not seen.

Joh 1:19  Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”

The apostle John, the author of this Gospel, will mention “Jews” some seventy times. Most often, he uses it to identify those in authority.

The priests and Levites knew who John was.

It’s not going too far to suggest John had been watched and scrutinized all his life.

There are 400 years between the end of the Old Testament and the ministry of John the Baptist. Scholars refer to it as the Intertestamental Period. Those of us in the pews call it the “400 Silent Years” because it was a span where no new prophets were raised, and God revealed nothing new to His people.

As far as we know, nothing of supernatural significance occurred in the Temple. The priests came, performed their duties, finished their rotation, and went home.

One day in the first century, a priest named Zacharias was performing a once-in-a-lifetime service when he entered alone into the holiest part of the Temple to offer incense for the nation.

The angel Gabriel appeared to him to announce the miraculous birth of a son to Zacharias and his wife, Elizabeth. They were to name him John.

He would be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb and have an Elijah-like ministry getting the Jews ready for the Messiah.

When Zacharias emerged, he was “mute and not able to speak… because [he] did not believe [Gabriel’s] words” (Luke 1:20). It was big news.

His tongue was loosed nine months later at the naming of his son.

The Jews could not have forgotten; if anything, as John grew, so did their anticipation.

At the heart of the Old Testament is the expectation that God would send a unique king, associated with King David’s dynasty, to establish the Kingdom of God on Earth and rule it from Jerusalem.

The nation of Israel was expecting one or more important Old Testament heroes to arrive. The Temple delegation wanted to know if John thought himself to be one of them.

Joh 1:20  He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”

“Christ” is not Jesus’ last name. The Bible Knowledge Commentary explains, “In Hebrew, “Messiah” means the anointed One, which in Greek is translated as “Christ.” The idea of “the anointed One” comes from the Old Testament practice of anointing priests and kings with oil.”

Hopes were high among first-century Jews for the arrival of the Messiah. A source I found explained there were three beliefs on how Israel was going to get freed from Roman occupation:

Take aggressive action against Rome, e.g., the Zealots.
Use methods of passive resistance.
The coming of Messiah.

Those with Messianic hope believed that God or His representative would intervene in history on behalf of His people. One researcher writes, “This view is represented in Qumran in the Psalms of Solomon 17. Psalms of Solomon 17 looks forward to a Davidic Messiah who will march on Jerusalem, banish the Gentiles from the city, reassemble the tribes of Israel and establish the ideal kingdom.”

Joh 1:21  And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not…”

The delegation knew their Bible. In the last chapter of the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi predicted that the prophet, Elijah, would return before Messiah’s coming:

Mal 4:5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.

If John was not the Messiah, maybe he was Elijah. John denied being Elijah.

Joh 1:21  “… Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”

Moses said in Deuteronomy 18:15, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren…” Later in John 6:14, we read that, “When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”

A Prophet like Moses would be a mere man, not the Son of God. He would be a deliverer from their Roman captivity but not from sin and death.

Let’s briefly reconsider John and Elijah. Jesus said of John, “This is he of whom it is written: ‘BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER BEFORE YOUR FACE, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY BEFORE YOU.’ And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come” (Matthew 11:10 &14).

Further in Matthew, Jesus said, “Elijah is coming and will restore all things; but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.’ Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist” (17:11-13).

Jesus told his disciples that Elijah is coming, a future occurrence, and that Elijah had already come – a past occurrence.

John the Baptist would have fulfilled Malachi’s prophecy had Israel responded to his message.

Two important things are at work in the Elijah prophecy: Man’s free will and God’s providence.

All the parties involved had genuine free-will:

John the Baptist had free will to obey God or not. Compare, for example, Samson, who mostly disobeyed God.
Israel’s leaders were given a choice to receive or reject Jesus. The Lord lamented for them that He would have gathered and protected them, but they willfully refused.

If things had gone differently, God would have provided for it. We can only speculate how it would have all shaken out, but it would have. Jesus would have been crucified, and the prophecies of the Last Days thus far recorded in the Bible would have been fulfilled to the letter.

John told them he was not Elijah because he wasn’t Elijah. Not Elijah in the flesh; only in the same spirit.

Joh 1:22  Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?”

There was no one else on the list of possible deliverers. Yet God was obviously blessing John’s ministry.

Joh 1:23  He said: “I am ‘THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS: MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

One commentator writes,

The imagery was that before a king would visit a town, a messenger would go before him to announce his coming. The townspeople would hurry out to clear away the obstacles and fill in the washed out parts of the road to smooth the way for the king’s coming. The messenger didn’t call attention to himself, but to the coming king.

John’s Elijah-like ministry was unique. We’re not expected to wear camel hair or eat locusts or be under lifelong Nazarite restrictions.

There are, nevertheless, encouraging parallels between John and ourselves:

John had a miraculous birth. Those of us in Christ have had a miraculous second birth. Unless you are born-again, you are not a child of God.
John was filled with God the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb. A Christian has God the Holy Spirit indwelling them from the time they are born-again forward.
John conducted his ministry in the wilderness. The world we are in can most definitely be described as a dangerous spiritual wilderness. Jesus has left us in it to make a difference.
John’s message and our message are essentially the same. Men are sinners, and Jesus is their Savior. Repent and be saved.

We are many ‘voicers’ crying out with compassion that Jesus came and is coming.

#2 – Are You A Looser? (v29-34)

There are no surviving artifacts or descriptions of Jewish shoes from the period of the early Bible.

We do know that Jews were taught the craft of sandal making while slaves in Egypt.

The Biblical sandal was either leather or wooden footboards held to the foot with leather thongs.

Sandals were prominent in the Exodus:

On the night of the first Passover, we read, “This is how you are to eat it: with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you shall eat like those who are in flight. It is the Passover of the LORD” (Exodus 12:11).

Twice in the Book of Deuteronomy, the Lord reminded His people that in forty years wandering, their sandals did not wear out (8:4 & 29:5).

The Jews developed extra-biblical sandal regulations. The right sandal always went on first, followed by the left. The left sandal was to be tied first, and the whole process reversed when taking the shoes off.

John the Baptist used sandals to illustrate the fixed mindset of a servant.

Joh 1:24  Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees.

We know the Pharisees as the conservative sect among the Jews. They emphasized the keeping of outward rules, rites, and rituals to achieve inward righteousness.

A person can, in their strength and by their effort, reform, and that’s great. Only God can transform a person from within.

Reformation does nothing to change the heart. Transformation changes the heart, thereby affecting everything we do.

Joh 1:25  And they asked him, saying, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

The Jews practiced baptism, but not the way John was doing it. The Jews had (and still do have) a practice called mikveh. A mikveh is a ritual bath that purifies the person entering it. A person will immerse him or herself in a mikveh upon conversion to Judaism, after any time of impurity, and before religious holidays.

John was doing the baptizing, and he was doing it on Jewish people, even calling on the Jewish religious leaders to repent and be baptized.

John told the delegation he was not one the Big Three they were expecting. His denials confused them.

Joh 1:26  John answered them, saying, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know.

They’re called teaser trailers. They are short video clips that let you know about an upcoming movie. They drop before the more lengthy trailers.

John gave the delegation a teaser. When he said, “I baptize with water,” it indicated Someone else was coming who would baptize in a medium other than water. Further, John told them this Someone was already in their midst. He would not reveal Jesus as the One nor explain His baptism until the next day.

Joh 1:27  It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.”

In verse fifteen, John had said, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ” This declaration must have been a recurring teaching in John’s ministry. Every week I say, “Ready or not, Jesus is coming.” Maybe John opened his baptisms with verse twenty-seven.

John, you remember, was Jesus’ cousin. He was born before Jesus. Jews would naturally think John superior to Jesus based on birth order.

Listening more intently, John’s claim is a declaration that his human cousin, Jesus, was “before” him in the sense He pre-existed. The opening verses support this, having revealed Jesus as the Word Who was with God, and Who was God.

“Whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.” Sandaled feet in the first century got nasty dirty. It was a show of practical hospitality to remove a person’s sandals and wash their feet.

Later in the Gospel of John, Jesus will take advantage of foot washing as a teachable moment.

On the night before His crucifixion, no one volunteered to wash feet at the meal He was sharing with His disciples. It was especially bad because they ate the meal semi-reclining on low pillows. Someone’s filthy, stinking, feet were in your vicinity.

Jesus “rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded” (13:4-5).

Making application, Jesus said,

Joh 13:14  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.
Joh 13:15  For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.

Congregations practice foot washing. We don’t see it as an ordinance to be practiced so much as an illustration.

The disciples ought to have fought over who would have the privilege of washing feet – especially the Lord’s feet. After three-plus years with Jesus, they still had no idea what it meant to serve.

Do you know what they also did not have? They did not have the gift of God the Holy Spirit poured out upon them. That wouldn’t happen until after the crucifixion. When His disciples seem flummoxed, we need to put it in perspective.

We, on the other hand, cannot claim ignorance. We have God the Holy Spirit to illuminate what we can do to serve Jesus, His followers, and the unsaved.

John the Baptist thought himself unworthy to remove the Lord’s sandals to wash His feet. Too bad he didn’t live long enough to hear of Jesus’ washing His disciple’s feet. I would have liked to have been there when John was trying to process that.

No matter how long you’ve been saved, Jesus should constantly amaze you. Everything about Him was unexpected. There is a holy foolishness to the plan of God becoming flesh. What other king condescends so much?

Joh 1:28  These things were done in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Your Bible may have Bethany instead of Bethabara. Same place, two names. It’s a historical, geographic detail that reminds us these events are true, and happened just as written.

It also lets us know the authorities had to come to John, instead of him being summoned by them. His authority was greater than theirs.

So is ours as ambassadors for the Lord.

We are not worthy to “loose” a sandal strap, but the Lord nevertheless uses us as loosers.

Believers pick up defilement from the world and could use a thorough washing by the Word of God shared with them.
If you are not a believer, you stand before God dressed in filthy rags. Jesus has taken upon Himself the sin of the world. If you will believe Him, He will take away your filthy garments and exchange them for His white robe of righteousness.

The First Time Ever We Saw Your Face (John 1:14-18)

Undercover Boss disguises company executives as new entry-level employees to experience what life is like among the rank-and-file.

My favorite Undercover Boss isn’t an episode from the show.

There are two Saturday Night Live parodies in which Adam Driver reprises his role as Ky Lo Ren, grandson of Darth Vader. He disguises himself as “Matt” on a Starkiller Base, and the next time as “Randy,” an intern on a Star Destroyer.

It doesn’t go well for his subordinates.

God came to live among us: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Things did go well for those He dwelt among:

Mankind was dead in their sins. Jesus is Life.

Mankind was lost in the dark. Jesus is Light.

“Because of all that the Son is, we have been given one blessing after another” (v16).

I’ll organize my comments around two points derived from the text: #1 In Jesus You Behold The Glory Of God, #2 In Jesus You’re Bestowed The Grace Of God.

#1 – In Jesus You Behold The Glory Of God (v14)

You gotta love the anti-drug public service campaigns aimed at kids. In one of them, a guy takes an egg out of the carton and says, “This is your brain.” He points to a hot cast iron skillet on the stovetop and says, “This is drugs.” He cracks the egg, and it begins to sizzle. He lifts the skillet off the burner and says, “This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?”

The opening eighteen verses of the Gospel of John make me want to say, “This is my brain on Doctrine.” It’s sizzling with profound teaching about God.

John wasted no time introducing the Doctrine of the Trinity. He told us in the opening verses that a Person called “the Word” was with God at Creation and was God the Creator. It is a mind-boggling revelation that God is One and more than One.

My mind is still reeling when John states that the Word Who was with God and was God became flesh to dwell among humans.

Discussing Jesus being fully God and fully human might be trickier than examining the Trinity. If I misspeak and say something confusing, you can default to the following:

The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ was the eternal God who became a human being. God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, came to earth and took human nature upon Himself. He did not possess human nature until His virgin birth in the little town of Bethlehem. From then forward, Jesus of Nazareth was fully God and fully human. Jesus is the “God-man.”

He was not half-God and half-human. These two natures in God the Son, residing in one body, cannot be divided. He did not do some things as God and other things as a human. Everything He did was as the God-man.

John announced the Word becoming human in one of the most sublime verses in the Bible.

Joh 1:14  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

God in human flesh overwhelms theologian Wayne Grudem. He writes:

It is the most amazing miracle of the entire Bible – far more amazing than the resurrection and more amazing even than Creation. The fact that the infinite, omnipotent, eternal Son of God could become man and join Himself to a human nature forever, so that infinite God became one person with finite man, will remain for eternity the most profound miracle and the most profound mystery in all the universe.

If you are an avid reader, you appreciate a well-crafted sentence. There are times reading J.R.R. Tolkien that I pause and reread a sentence many times.

It takes nothing away from the rest of the inspired Bible to be enamored by John 1:14.

“And the Word became flesh.” The Word who was with God and who was God took upon Himself humanity.

Jesus in human “flesh” differs from Undercover Boss in that it was not temporary, nor was it a disguise.

Jesus never stopped being God. He will never cease to be human. He is forever both God and man in one person. “Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see; hail the Incarnate Deity.”

Jesus came to show us the Father.

“Became” means He added humanity to His deity. We should note that the virgin birth – another sizzling doctrine – means Jesus possesses a perfect human nature. He was without imputed or inherited sin. Jesus is the only Person Who qualifies to save us.

“Dwelt” is another carefully chosen word in this masterful sentence. It is the word you would use to say that you pitched a tent or built a Tabernacle. It connects Jesus’ coming in the flesh to the Old Testament tent the Jews pitched, the Tabernacle.

Since Jesus ‘tabernacled’ with us, there is no need for a Tabernacle or a Temple in the current dispensation. Don’t be drawn to celebrating or practicing Jewish rituals that are fulfilled in Jesus.

“We beheld His glory.” I have always found “glory” a difficult concept to nail down. I came across this useful description: “God’s glory is the sum of all His attributes and perfection. It is sometimes displayed as a bright or overpowering light.”

✎︎ John “beheld [Jesus’] glory” on the Mount of Transfiguration. Jesus “was transfigured… His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light” (Matthew 17:1-2).

✎︎ John “beheld” Jesus’ innumerable signs and wonders, all of which brought “glory” to God.

✎︎ John was at the crucifixion. In John 13:31, Jesus says of the Cross, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him.”

“The glory as of the only begotten of the Father.” “Begotten” throws people.
Upon first reading, it sounds like the Father created Jesus. That cannot be true because the Word was with God and was God.

I’ve lately been quoting from the International Standard Version. Here is John 1:14 in the ISV: “The Word became flesh and lived among us. We gazed on His glory, the kind of glory that belongs to the Father’s unique Son, who is full of grace and truth.

“Unique” is the better translation of the word “begotten.” The writer to the Hebrew Christians uses the same word to describe the relationship between Abraham and his two sons, Ishmael and Isaac (11:17). He calls Isaac his “only begotten son.” Abraham had another son, Ishmael, who was born first. Isaac was the unique son who would inherit God’s promises.

“Who is full of grace and truth.” In John 20:31, John says, “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” “All,” “every man,” “whoever,” can believe.
Sadly, not everyone will believe. The words “grace” and “truth” describe the experience of both:

Those who believe, receiving Jesus, experience “grace.” They are saved by grace through faith in Jesus, and they are enabled to walk in grace.

Those who will not believe, rejecting Jesus, experience a hard “truth.” Jesus puts it this way in John 3:18, “He who believes in [Me] is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

It is Truth or Consequences if you are a nonbeliever.

John beheld Jesus’ “glory.” We behold His glory.

In Second Corinthians 3:18 we are told, “we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

The Bible Knowledge Commentary says, “This glory is the experience of salvation available in the New Covenant and mediated by the Holy Spirit who leads Christians from justification through sanctification to glorification.” As we draw nearer ton Jesus, His glory is revealed in and through us.

#2 – In Jesus You’re Bestowed The Grace Of God (v15-18)

The Metrons were a powerful, peace-loving race. They intervened as Captain Kirk pursued the Gorn to retaliate for their attack on a Star Fleet outpost. The Metrons stopped both ships and announced that they would pit the respective captains against each other in a fight to the death. They would destroy the ship and crew of the losing captain, and the other ship would be spared.

Pursued by the stronger but much slower reptilian Gorn, Kirk eventually realizes he has all the resources he needs to be victorious in combat.

We have the all-we-need resource of grace.

Joh 1:15  John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ”

Jews would have considered John the Baptist superior to Jesus because he was his elder by six months. John dispels that when he says, “He who comes after me is preferred before me.”

Then he is quoted, “for He was before me.” Born after John, the only way Jesus could be “before” John was to have existed before his birth. “He was before me” is John the Baptist’s way of recognizing Jesus’ pre-existence.

Joh 1:16  And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.

Translations of “grace for grace” include the following:

“Grace on grace.”
“One blessing after another.”
“One gracious gift after another from His abundance.”
“Gift after gift after gift.”
“Grace over-against grace.”

Scholars can’t seem to get a handle on it.

First, this isn’t saving grace. It is grace in abundance after salvation. It is “gift after gift,” “one blessing after another.”

Second, this grace abundantly available comes from the “fullness” of Jesus. J.C. Ryle writes, “All we who believe in Jesus have received an abundant supply of all that our souls need out of the full store that resides in Him for His people. It is from Christ and Christ alone, that all our spiritual wants have been supplied.”

Have you been stocking up on toilet paper? Quote: “Product shortages are going to be as bad as when the COVID19 pandemic started, as reported on Fox Business. They made this prediction after Costco warned its customers it was having trouble fulfilling toilet paper orders in the week of September 20, 2021. The shortages won’t stop at toilet paper.”

Jesus is always fully stocked in supernatural resources for you, and a primary resource is grace.

One of our Lord’s unclaimed promises is that during the Church Age we will suffer tribulation. If you were to ask Clubber Lang his prediction for the Church Age, he’d say what he said in Rocky 3. “Pain.”

To quote Pastor Chuck Smith, “Grace changes everything.”

The apostle of grace, Paul, explains how grace changes everything in our sufferings.

2Co 12:7  … a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me…
2Co 12:8  Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.
2Co 12:9  And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2Co 12:10  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Grace is needed to meet infirmities, reproaches, needs, persecutions, and distresses.

In spiritual alchemy, grace takes weaknesses and perfects them to be strengths.

Grace is not the healing you ask for. It isn’t the way out of your trouble. It isn’t the removal of your trial. It is the resource that allows you to boast about God and take pleasure in those things.

Most likely your house is equipped with the kind of water heater that keeps pre-heated water in its tank. There are tankless water heaters that promise “instant, unlimited hot water.” You turn the handle and, Bam – hot water.

Is grace a resource we must store up in our tank? Or is it instantly available to us?

We tend to live as though it needs to be stored up.
We never seem to have enough of it to cope.
We act like there is a grace shortage.
We talk about renewing the fire as if we need to reheat our tepid tank.

The grace we are talking about comes from the “fullness” of Jesus. The Bible describes a believer by saying you are “in Jesus.”

Since you are “in Jesus,” grace is instantly delivered to you in an inexhaustible supply. After all, it is grace, a gift, that cannot be earned or deserved.

When Paul had his thorn in the flesh, Jesus told him that grace was instantly, abundantly available to him.
Paul stopped beseeching God and started boasting to people about Him.

Beseeching is fine. Let’s do more boasting.

Joh 1:17  For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Mentioning Moses and the Law seems odd, but that’s because we are not Jews. John had introduced the thought that Jesus fulfilled the symbolism of the Tabernacle. What about the Law itself? Was that still in effect?

Listen to this quote:

By Moses was given the law: the moral law, full of high and holy demands, and of stern threatenings against disobedience; and the ceremonial law, full of burdensome sacrifices, ordinances, and ceremonies, which never healed the worshipper’s conscience, and at best were only shadows of good things to come.

By Jesus, on the other hand, came grace and truth: grace by the full manifestation of God’s plan of salvation, and the offer of complete pardon to every soul that believes on Jesus; and truth, by the unveiled exhibition of Jesus Himself, as the true sacrifice, the true Priest, and the true atonement for sin.

You almost don’t notice that John uses the name Jesus for the first time. He called Jesus “the Word” for the last time in verse fourteen.

Joh 1:18  No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

The saints we think “saw” God did not see Him in His full glory.

Moses “saw” God, but in Exodus 33:19-23, we read, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” And the LORD said, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.”

Others, like Moses’ disciple Joshua, saw Jesus in a pre-incarnation appearance. Albert Barnes writes, “This passage is not meant to deny that men had witnessed manifestations of God; but it is meant that no one has seen the essence of God, or has fully known God.”

How can we know God and fellowship with Him if He is unapproachable? “The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”

The Contemporary English Version (CEV) reads, “No one has ever seen God. The only Son, who is truly God and is closest to the Father, has shown us what God is like.”

Every believer is “uniquely called and placed in our own sphere of influence” (Robert Ferguson).

You are the Lord’s undercover operative. Not to disguise your Christianity, but to expose it.

✎︎ Let others behold God’s glory by being led by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

✎︎ Let others marvel at the grace bestowed upon you, first in saving you, then in its abundance in you life.

Heeeear Johnny! (John 1:6-13)

We use the word ‘effect’ to describe unusual phenomena. My two favorites are the Butterfly Effect and the Mandela Effect.

✎︎ The Butterfly Effect proposes that small changes lead to cosmic consequences. Ray Bradbury illustrates it in his short story, A Sound of Thunder.

A company offers hunters the chance to travel back in time to shoot extinct species such as T-Rex. One of the hunters strays off the path and unknowingly steps on a butterfly, killing it. After returning to the future, small then catastrophic changes are attributed to the butterfly’s death.

✎︎ The Mandela Effect describes instances of shared false memory. The name comes from people being certain they remember Nelson Mandela dying while in prison in the 1980s. Mandela died free on December 5, 2013.

The most famous Mandela Effect is the dialog between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back. “Luke, I am your father” is an iconic phrase many remember, but it is not what Vader said. He said, “No, I am your father.”

Our verses in the Gospel of John could be called The Jesus Effect.

The apostle John claims Jesus “was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world… that all through Him might believe” (v9&7).

John uses the word “believe” at least sixty times in his Gospel. “Believing” is going to be front and center in many of our studies.

I’ll organize my comments around two points derived from the text: #1 Every Person You Share Jesus With Can Believe God, and #2 Every Person You Share Jesus With Can Be Born Of God.

#1 – Every Person You Share Jesus With Can Believe God (v6-11)

His disciples once asked Jesus, “Who then can be saved?” Theologians throughout the centuries have asked and sought to answer that question.

A surprisingly large number of Christians answer the question the way this Reformed writer does: “The saving intent of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross is limited to the elect, those for whom Jesus died.”

They reason that Jesus did not die for everyone. He died only for the elect who before Creation were predestined to believe. People who were not elect in eternity past cannot be saved. They are instead predestined for damnation.

An important Reformed document states, “The express testimony of sacred Scripture that not all, but some only, are elected, while others are passed by in the eternal decree.”

We teach that “God so loved” everyone in “the” entire “world” of mankind “that He gave His only begotten Son,” Jesus, “that whoever” who has ever lived who “believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

This discussion has gone on for centuries. There won’t be a resolution of it in this life. It is acceptable to hold either view; it really is.

I propose something simple: Since both views rest upon biblical scholarship, and a Christian can hold either, you are compelled to choose the one that offers salvation to whoever will believe.

I want to look upon everyone and know they are a person Jesus Christ died for, not a “maybe” who cannot be saved because God predestined them to suffer conscious, eternal punishment in Hell.

Let me put it in question form: Why would you choose to believe God limits His offer of salvation if you don’t have to? You don’t have to, so don’t.

One more thing. The folks in the limited atonement, unconditional election, double-predestination, field of T.U.L.I.P’s are adamant that their view is the only one that has biblical scholarship. More than once I’ve been told that if a person sincerely studied the Bible, they would conclude Jesus died only for the predestined elect. Don’t fall for that argument. Scores of scholars, resources, and church history offer biblical proof of the “whosoever will” heart of God.

Joh 1:6  There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

John the Baptist. John the Baptizer. John the Immerser. John the Forerunner. John has been known by these names.

The apostle John never uses any descriptor in discussing him. He introduces him as “a man sent from God.”

Have you ever introduced someone? You probably had a cheat sheet listing the person’s many awards and accomplishments, as well as personal details.

The introduction of John featured none of those.

No statistics on how many he baptized.
No mention of the number of followers.
No references to his program of wilderness discipleship.
He wasn’t promoting the locust and honey diet.
There was no line of camel’s hair clothing.

He was merely a “man sent from God.” We know some of his preparation before being sent from God:

John had a miraculous conception, announced by an angel. His parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth, were childless and far too old to have a child.
John was filled with God the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb.

He was a Nazarite from birth. He abstained from all products that come from grapes; he never cut his hair; and he was careful not to come in contact with a dead body to avoid defilement.

Jesus called John a prophet and said, “Among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11).

Every Christian is the product of a miraculous second birth and filled with God the Holy Spirit.

You and I are “sent from God.” We are to go into all the world with the Gospel message. To quote the Blues Brothers, “We are on a mission for God.”

If you don’t already, begin to see yourself as sent from God to your family and friends, at your workplace – anywhere you are.

Joh 1:7  This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe.
Joh 1:8  He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
Joh 1:9  That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.

We could add ‘John the Witness’ to his titles. He spoke of Jesus, not of himself. We might want to check our testimony to be sure we are not bringing any attention to ourselves.

Use only as much of your life BC (Before Christ) necessary to point to Jesus.

The apostle John told us in the first five verses that “in the beginning,” a Person called “the Word” was with God and was God. In verse fourteen, he will inform us that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Only one Person can be introduced as “God in human flesh appearing,” the Lord Jesus Christ.

The entire world of men lies in spiritual darkness. Not just around us but within us. We have a heart of darkness, born as we are with a sin nature.

Satan’s emissaries are called “the rulers of the darkness of this world” (Ephesians 6:12).

Mankind is described as having “minds the god of this age has blinded…” (Second Corinthians 4:4).

“Light,” “Light,” “Light,” “Light,” “Light” – five times in these three verses.

Two more times in verses one through five. Jesus shone as “Light” in the darkness of fallen, sin-darkened Creation.

Jesus “gives light to every man coming into the world… that all through Him might believe.” The International Standard Version is better: Jesus “was the true light that enlightens every person by His coming into the world… so that all might believe because of Him.”

It saddens me that so many commentators read these words and immediately begin parsing them to exclude those they deem the non-elect.

The grace of God necessary to believe has been called “prevenient grace.” It comes before, enabling a person to recognize sin, repent of sin, and believe Jesus for the forgiveness of sin. God, in His grace and by the Holy Spirit, frees your will so that you might believe.

One of our favorite verses is First Timothy 4:10, “For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.”

“Every man,” “all,” “whoever,” can believe

Joh 1:10  He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.

Commentator John Gill has an interesting, and I think correct, take on verse ten. He lived in the 1700s, so his English is a little hard for us. He writes,

The phrase “He was in the world” is to be understood, not of Jesus’ Incarnation; for the word “was” denotes past existence, from before the Creation of the world; and the world is the world in general, as opposed to Judea, and the people of the Jews in the next verse. The Incarnation of the Word is spoken of in verse fourteen as a new and distinct thing from this. [He was] in the world, when [it was] first made, and [has been] since, by His essence, by which He fills the whole world; and by His power, upholding and preserving it; and by His providence, ordering and managing all the affairs of it, and influencing and governing all things in it. He was in it as the light and life of it, giving natural life and light to creatures in it, and filling it, and them, with various blessings of goodness. He was frequently visible in the world, in an human form, before His Incarnation, as in Eden’s garden to our first parents, to Abraham, Jacob, Joshua, and others.

I like what John Gill says because it includes Jesus’ activity from Creation to His first coming. The Lord watched over us for millennia, providing for us, protecting us, loving us. From the Garden until now, His plan of salvation has been kept on track and on time by His providence.

“The world did not know Him.” The apostle Paul expands on this in the first chapter of the Book of Romans. He says that mankind “did not think it worthwhile to keep knowing God fully… For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him. Instead, their thoughts turned to worthless things, and their senseless hearts were darkened” (v18&21 ISV).

The clause “although they knew God” refers to a knowledge of God such as Adam and Eve had both before and after the Fall. How long this knowledge of God continued before it was perverted is not stated, but people knew God.

Years after the Garden, we see Him talking with Cain about murdering Abel.
As John Gill noted, He appears to believers with some frequency in the Old Testament as a Christophany – as the Angel of the Lord.

Jesus did not abandon Creation. Mankind abandoned their Creator. In our natural birth, we prefer darkness to His light.

Joh 1:11  He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.

The first “His own” is probably a general reference to Jesus coming to Earth, to “His own” Creation.
The second “His own” definitely refers to the nation of Israel. God created a new nation from Abraham through whom Jesus would be born.

God became man and came to His own Creation and His own created nation:

Gentiles eliminated God and worship “images that looked like mortal human beings, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles” (Romans 1:23).
Israel rejected Jesus. Isaiah long before had prophesied of Jewish national unbelief, saying, “Who has believed our message?” (53:1).

You can believe. Your family members can believe. Your children can believe. Your friends can believe. Your employer and your employees can believe. Our government leaders can believe.

Not everyone will believe and be saved. It isn’t because they can’t believe, but because they won’t believe.

#2 – Every Person You Share Jesus With Can Be Born Of God (v12-13)

Alan Jackson’s biggest hit was Chattahoochee.

I’m thinking of another song of his that wasn’t a hit and doesn’t appear on lists of fan favorites. It’s titled, We’re All God’s Children.

Here comes a Baptist, here comes a Jew
There goes a Mormon and a Muslim too
I see a Buddhist and a Hindu
I see a Catholic and I see you
We’re all God’s children
Why can’t we be one big happy family?

“Dear Alan,
We are NOT all God’s children.”

Joh 1:12  But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.
Joh 1:13  who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

The fact that those who believe “become children of God” means that all people are not God’s children by natural birth. You become God’s child in a second, spiritual birth.

The RMS Titanic had twenty lifeboats that, in total, could accommodate 1,178 people the night it sank. There were 2,208 souls on board. They did not have “as many” lifeboats as they needed.

“As many as received” Jesus means there are enough “eternal-life” boats to receive whoever believes.

John equates “receive” with “believe.” You “receive” Jesus by “believ[ing] in His Name.” When you “believe” Him, you “receive” Him.

Neither believing nor receiving is a work you perform. Salvation is God’s gift to be believed and received by faith.

You “believe in His name.” One commentator said,

His Name refers to all that Jesus is in His person as the eternal Word made flesh. It refers to all that He did by dying on the Cross as the substitute for your sins. Believing in His name means that you stop relying on your own merits and works as the way to approach God and instead you rely totally on what Jesus did for you on the Cross. It means that when you stand before God, your only hope for Heaven is not your good works, but rather that Jesus died for your sins and you are trusting in Him alone.

Jews in the first century thought themselves the “right” children of God on account of “blood,” “the will of the flesh,” and “the will of man.”

“Blood” refers to ancestry. Jews thought they were God’s children by merely being Abrahams descendants

“The will of the flesh” is self-righteousness in keeping rules and rituals to deserve salvation.

“The will of man” refers to the desire of someone else for you to be saved. Roman Catholics, for example, believe that all who die “imperfectly purified” go to Purgatory. They pray and offer Mass for souls in Purgatory. There ain’t no Purgatory.

The birth of a child of God is not a natural birth; it is a supernatural work of God. A person responds in faith to Jesus, and they are born-again.

Being born-again is called regeneration. I prefer the less technical but still accurate term, rebirth. The rebirth is a spiritual, holy, and heavenly birth that results in our being made alive spiritually.

I’ll let you in on another doctrinal controversy. The same folks we discussed earlier who limit the atonement to the predestined elect have an unexpected position on rebirth. They say that “rebirth precedes faith.” In their world, you are born-again, and afterward you are given faith to believe.

If anyone knows about believing, it’s John who uses the word so much. Remember what John said about why he wrote?

“But #1 these are written that you may #2 believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may #3 have life in His name” (20:31).

Notice the order:

You read or hear the “written” word.
You “believe.”
You “have life,” i.e., you are born-again.

We will talk a lot more about rebirth when Jesus visits Nicodemus at night.

Jesus says of us, “but he who is least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than [John]” (Matthew 11:11).

Do you feel “greater” than John? One sense in which we are greater is that we are collectively called the bride of Jesus. John considered himself a friend of the Bridegroom. Bride beats friend.

Let’s build on that analogy. I’m betting that when you were engaged to your fiancé, you were joyous and wanted to let everyone know. You could hardly wait to introduce them.

We are the bride of Jesus. Currently, we are engaged. Jesus is our fiancé.

Be joyous and introduce Him to others.

God’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Jesus (John 1:1-5)

“Call me Ishmael”

You at once recognize the first sentence of Moby Dick. How about these famous literary first sentences:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” (A Tale of Two Cities).
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” (Pride & Prejudice).

I submit to you that the most significant opening words ever written in the history of mankind are “In the beginning, God…”

You instantly recognize the opening words of the Book of Genesis. It should therefore come as a shock that the apostle John opened his Gospel using these sacred words.

Shockingly, John added to the words. He said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

He explains that God was not alone when the world was created. Someone else was there with God, a Person called “the Word.”
He claims this Person is equal with God.
John will go on to explain in verse fourteen that this Person Who was with God and is equal to God came from Heaven to Earth as a man. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

If the first line is a hook, John has us hook, line, and sinker.

I’ll organize my comments around two points derived from the text: #1 The Word Gives You Life, and #2 The Word Gives You Light.

#1 – The Word Gives You Life (v1-4)

Ninety-three percent of what John records does not occur in any of the other gospels.

Ten chapters are devoted to describing one week of Jesus’ ministry.
One-third of the verses in the book cover a single twenty-four-hour period in the life of Jesus.

D.A. Carson writes, “[Unique to the Gospel of John is] all of the material in chapters two, three, and four, including His miraculous transformation of water into wine, His dialogue with Nicodemus, and His ministry in Samaria. Further, the resurrection of Lazarus, Jesus’ frequent visits to Jerusalem, and His extended dialogues or discourses in the Temple and in various synagogues, not to mention much of His private instruction to His disciples, are all exclusive to the Fourth Gospel.”

John informs us why the Holy Spirit inspired him to put quill to parchment. It is “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (20:31).

Do you have “life in His Name?”

“Yes,” you say? The Gospel of John will give you a greater appreciation for eternal life, both now and forever.

“No,” you say? The inspired account of Jesus will draw you to Him so that you may believe and be saved.

Joh 1:1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

If I said, “The force be with you,” odds are you’d know I was referring to the well-known metaphysical power certain individuals channel in the Star Wars universe.

“Word” was a well-known religious concept to both Gentiles and Jews. Learned men used it to try to describe creative spiritual power.

Gentiles referred to “the Word” as the impersonal power that created and controlled the universe.
Jews thought of “the Word” as the creative power of YHWH. Psalm 33:9, for example, says that at the Creation, “For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.”

John explains that the Word is not a power of God but another Person Who is God.

We hold to the Doctrine of the Trinity. We are Trinitarians. One definition of our Trinitarian beliefs goes like this:

The Bible teaches that there is one eternal God who is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. He is the only God that exists. However, within the nature of this one God are three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These three Persons are co-equal and co-eternal. They are also distinguishable or distinct from one another. These three distinct Persons are the one God. Everything that is true about God is true about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

All attempts to explain the Trinity with some analogy miserably fail.

Apologist Don Stewart writes, “It is best to admit that the Trinity has no analogy with which we can compare it.”

The Bible beyond doubt teaches that God is Triune. It is, however, a lot to wrap our finite minds around. There may, therefore, be times when you hear me misspeak about the Trinity or seem to struggle to be sure I don’t misspeak. No worries. I assure you that we are orthodox.

The fact that God, Who is One, is more than One is discoverable in the word Moses chose for God.

The word for God in the first verse of the Bible is Elohim. Scholars agree that Elohim is a plural term being used to describe an individual. God is One but more than One.

Here are two more quick things for your consideration:

In verse two of Genesis chapter one, we see the Spirit, another Person Who is God.

In Genesis 2:26, God refers to Himself plurally, saying out loud, “Let us make man in our image.”

The first verses of the Bible might not be enough to establish the Trinity fully. They are sufficient to suggest there was more than one Person at Creation. John will identify that Second Person.

The choice of the word “was” communicates that the Word pre-existed. Since He “was” already there “in the beginning,” then He was there before Creation. He was not created but is eternal.

“With” is another loaded word. Leon Morris said, “We should understand from the preposition [“with”] the two ideas of accompaniment and relationship.
Not only did the Word exist “in the beginning,” but He existed in the closest possible connection with the Father.” The Word was equal “with” YHWH.

“And the Word was God.”

Another quote I jotted down: “John is not merely saying that there is something divine about the Word. He is affirming that He is God, and doing so emphatically.”

The Jews thought the Word was a power that YHWH possessed. It was not a person to them, let alone a person who was God.

BTW: The Jehovah’s Witnesses that knock on your door have their version of the Bible. In it, the opening line of the Gospel of John reads, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a God.” Not God, a god who God created. You don’t need to know Greek grammar or see existing manuscripts to know and show this is false. The Word cannot be both created and Creator.

Why call this Second Person “the Word?” In just a few verses, we will read, “No one has ever seen God. The only Son, who is truly God and is closest to the Father, has shown us what God is like” (1:18 CEV).

Words reveal unseen thoughts. The Word reveals the unseen God.

Joh 1:2  He was in the beginning with God.

The Word “was” there eternally, “with God,” and He created the world as an equal.

It is difficult for non-Jews to comprehend the explosive nature of John’s declarations.

Jews consider this polytheism – the worship of many gods.

Jews daily repeat the Shema, which was their essential confession of faith. We find it in the fifth book of the Bible:

Deu 6:4  “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!
Deu 6:5  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
Deu 6:6  “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.
Deu 6:7  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
Deu 6:8  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.
Deu 6:9  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

“The LORD our God, the LORD” is a translation of Jehovah Elohim Jehovah. The Scripture used to argue against plurality uses the plural, Elohim.

Joh 1:3  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

Only God can create from nothing. The Word is not the force, not the power, YHWH possessed to create. The Word is Himself the Creator with YHWH.

John was not adding anything to the Genesis account. It had always indicated more than one Person.

The learned Jews missed something that was right there in the verse. Let’s talk about that for a moment. We all need to acknowledge we can miss things in the Bible even when they are clearly stated. I’ll give you an example using spiritual gifts.

We’ve shown Pentecostals in the Bible where the apostle Paul clearly states, “For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries” (First Corinthians 14:2). They go right on interpreting their utterances as messages from God to men.
Cessationists are on the other end of the spiritual gifts spectrum. They deny certain charismatic gifts can exist today; they say they have ceased. Quoting Paul again, “I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification” (First Corinthians 14:5).

Just because we keep hearing something, it doesn’t make it true. We must always let the text speak in its context.

Back to our text…

Joh 1:4  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.

In the Word “was life” means He gave life to Creation, especially to Adam and Eve, breathing into Adam and then creating Eve from Adam’s side.

The light God gave our original parents might have caused them to be radiant.

God is light, and we’re told He dwells in unapproachable light (First Timothy 6:16).

The psalms mention that God covers Himself in light (104:2). Psalms 50:2 says, “From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth.”

Someone who has God’s “life” has His “light.” We know that we will be raised from the dead or raptured in a glorious body in the future. If it is anything like Jesus’ resurrection body, we will shine.

On the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus shined in His glory.

Recall also that whenever Moses met with God, he would return glowing.

A Messianic resource said, “There are traditions from both Jewish and Christian sources that teach that before the fall, the skin of Adam and Eve was luminous. In other words, they were “covered” by divine light and would ‘glow’ so to speak.”

Another commentator wrote,

I believe, before the fall of man, that Adam and Eve also glowed with the glory of God through their mortal flesh, just like Moses. When they sinned, the glory was removed and, “they knew they were naked.” They could obviously see they were physically naked before; nothing changed there. There is the possibility that God’s glory was removed and they shone no more. They could see they were naked, i.e., without the glory of God encompassing them.

The “Us” of “Let Us make man in our image did “good.” It didn’t last. Satan, the sin-sick-sin-serpent, tempted our parents. Their sin affected all life and light, plunging them and Creation into spiritual death and darkness.

Not to worry. Here light comes to save the day!

#2 – The Word Gives You Light (v5)

I almost experienced utter darkness. It was right up in our Sequoia National Forrest at Boyden Cavern.

The guide takes you in and, at one point, extinguishes his light, leaving you momentarily in a palpable darkness. It’s a highlight of the tour.

Unless, of course, you’re on the tour with the family who thinks it’s OK for their kid to be wearing light-up sneakers and keep slamming his feet down.

Joh 1:5  And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

It must have been terrifying for Adam and Eve to lose the light of God and instantly be plunged into spiritual darkness. It was enough to make them hide from their gracious God.

How are we to understand darkness? Genesis can help us get a handle on it. The very next account in Genesis after the Fall is the murder of Abel by his brother, Cain.

Not too many generations later, fallen angels married and mated with human women. It produced a race of giants called Nephilim. The corruption of human DNA became so widespread that God destroyed everyone on Earth with the global flood.

Except for eight souls – Noah and his family. Noah was “perfect in his generations” (6:9). The words might be referring to his unaffected DNA. Noah, through his children, would pass on perfect DNA to restore humankind.

Not long after the flood came the Tower of Babel. Mankind started building a ziggurat (tower) from which to worship the stars and planets.

These episodes are the result of the fall in the Garden of Eden. They are indicative of spiritual darkness. Mankind has a heart of darkness, and we see the horror that ensues.

If I said, “The world is a dark place,” you’d know what I mean and probably agree with me. (Unless you are Drax; then you’d argue that there are lights on everywhere).

Light defeats darkness.

Of course, the ratio of light to darkness matters.

If I light a stick match in Boyden Cavern, the light will prevail only in a limited area. A flashlight beam will show me more.

There was a guy in San Bernardino who bought the surplus military spotlights to rent out for events. Those things could blind you. Get something like that into the Cavern and light would chase out the dark.

It would require a pretty awesome light to overcome the darkness in every corner of Creation. Good thing the Word is light of immeasurable magnitude.

Satan is called “the ruler of this world” (Second Corinthians 4:4). Satanic forces are called “the rulers of the darkness of this age” (Ephesians 6:12).

The Word came into the world He created to “shine in the darkness.” In verses seven, eight, and nine, John will tell us that the Word “was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.”

When it says “the darkness did not comprehend it,” the International Standard Version (ISV) says, “the darkness has never put it out.” The Message version (MSG) says, “it couldn’t put it out.”

We just finished thirty-four studies in The Revelation. We saw the light prevail over darkness. So much so that in eternity there is no physical or spiritual darkness. Only day, never night; never wrong, only right.

I might change my mind. Earlier I said that the opening words of Genesis were the most significant opening words ever written in the history of mankind. John 1:1 is right up there.

We are calling this series, “He loved me; He loves me lots.”

The Word, Jesus, is God Who loved you before Creation.

The Word, Jesus, is God in human flesh Who came to make you His new creature before He restores Creation.

You and I “are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart” (Second Corinthians 3:3).

What are the opening words of your letter to the world thus far?

Maybe it’s time for editing, or a rewrite.

Clean Sweep (John 2v13-17)

On the last Wednesday night of the month we usually pause from our regular studies to share in communion together and on those nights we’ve been turning over to the Gospels to hang out with Jesus. Because communion is all about us and Jesus.

When He was giving the Lord’s Supper to us Jesus said, “as often as you do this, do it in remembrance of Me.”

And here at Calvary we’re fond of talking about 3 things to remember when taking communion. They are 3 things that Paul talked about. First, we remember what has happened. Christ’s death on the cross means our sins are once for all purged and washed away. Second, we remember what is still coming. As we look forward into the future that God has revealed to us in the Bible, we know that the Lord is coming back for us. He’s going to take us home to heaven where we will be forever free from sin and the effects of sin. No more sorrow. No more pain. No more disappointment. We will be complete and relieved and in fullness of joy.

But third, when we take communion, we are to look within our own hearts and evaluate our relationship with this God who has saved us and is coming to get us. This is the tougher one. Because we’re more of a veneer culture, aren’t we? When something’s rotten, we like to cover it up with something shiny. I know that’s my approach to home maintenance.

But self evaluation is absolutely essential in the life of a Christian. Especially when we gather to take communion. Here’s what Paul said in 1 Corinthians chapter 11:

1 Corinthians 11.27-28 – So anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup.

Tonight we get this chance to remember what Jesus did for us and what He’s still planning to do and that should stir us up and excite us and motivate us to pursue Him. But tonight is also a chance for us to evaluate ourselves and make sure that we’re properly walking with God, keeping pace with Him and staying in submission to His word. It’s a chance to look inward and make sure we’re drinking deep of His living water.

Because if we don’t stay connected to the Lord, if we’re not drinking deep of His living water, then our love will decline and our fruit will wither and our spiritual lives will start having dry rot crop up.

As you’ve noticed, we’re doing a bunch of work around the trailer bathroom outside. The project was originally going to be just replacing the deck, but as the guys pulled things back they found dry rot on the trailer itself and now we’re addressing that problem. The answer isn’t to simply cover it up and pretend it’s not happening. That would be foolish and irresponsible. The answer is to deal with the problem, replacing or repairing what has been damaged.

Our text tonight shows us how damaging spiritual dry rot, spiritual leaven can be, but also how to deal with it if we happen to find it in our own lives.

Put in at verse 13 of John chapter 2. There we read:

John 2.13 – It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem.

Passover time was the start of the Jewish religious calendar. And, like what we’ve got tonight, it was a time of remembrance and examination for the Jews. They remembered the deliverance from Egypt and they would look for and remove all leaven from their homes as prescribed by God as a sign of holiness. It was also a time of celebration.

Any religion or tradition that strips away joy and celebration from a relationship with Jesus Christ is not in line with what God has presented to us in His word. Communion reminds us of death, it reminds us of sin, but it is to be a celebration as well. God wants us to be people filled with joy and anticipation and excitement and celebrations that are centered around Him and His work in our lives.

John 2.14 – In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money.

The temple here referenced was the one constructed by Herod the Great. It was divided into a number of courts. This scene plays out in what was known as the court of the Gentiles. Anyone could come into that part of the temple. Jews, Gentiles, men or women.

Now, people would travel from all over the world to come and worship in the temple, especially during Passover. There would, undoubtedly, be some who did not have the resources to travel with their sacrificial animals. There would be some who did not use the shekel back home, so there was a need for people to have access to animals and the acceptable currency for worshiping according to the Levitical law.

But there were at least 2 major problems here as we see these economic activities happening.

The first is that this sort of commerce should not be done inside of the temple. Nehemiah had dealt with this problem many centuries before. So the location of the business was wrong.

But the second major problem is that the priests controlled these assets and they would lie and extort in order to bleed people for as much money as possible. They’d disqualify the animals that travelers brought and say that they could buy ‘pre-approved’ animals there in the temple at wildly high rates. Some say that they were charging upwards of 10 times the value for some of these transactions.

The priests in the temple at some point started allowing the leaven of greed, the leaven of convenience, the leaven of prejudice to shape their behavior and their methods. This was out and out sin, but on the physical level it was a convenient, financially beneficial sin. And the corruption expanded and grew to the incredible levels that we see on the pages of the Gospels.

What we find is that the Jewish leaders were living out their religion how they saw fit. They had abandoned the simple surrender to God’s word and God’s methods and they were trying to remodel God’s structures in their own image.

Here’s the thing: We are all about personal freedom, personal liberty, personal wealth. It’s true of all mankind, but it’s especially true of our culture. We have to come to grips with the fact that those attitudes are dangerous in the spiritual life. Because the life of a Christian is all about submission and sacrifice. We don’t get to live the Christian life however we want. Instead we are commanded to obey God according to His plan for our lives.

When we became believers the Bible says that Jesus Christ put a new heart inside of us. It’s a heart of love and submission. Now, all around us there are all these rotten pressures that want to get into the temple and a lot of them seem convenient or they seem lucrative, but Christ would say to us, “A little leaven leavens the lump.”

That’s what He would say and here’s what He did:

John 2.15 – Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables.

This is hardcore. Jesus is not messing around. He means business.

Here’s what I thought was interesting: Jesus doesn’t use a whip to do this kind of work anymore. No, now He uses a sword. We’re told in the Bible that He sticks a sword right into our hearts.

Hebrews 4.12 – For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Why? Why did the Lord fashion a whip and why does He plunge a sword into the very heart of us? Look at verse 16:

John 2.16 – Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!”

Now, on one hand I’m thinking, “Jesus, what do You care about what’s going down in Herod’s temple? In a couple of years the veil is going to be torn and this whole system is going to be set aside, so why bother dealing with this?”

But Jesus doesn’t want anyone to have the impression that God is not accessible.
See, a marketplace is all about barriers. It’s all about you having to buy, having to wait, having to bring enough in order to get something in return. And Jesus Christ didn’t want there to be any barrier between God and the people who were seeking after Him.

Geno is right at that age where he likes things explained to him. And when we’re at the store, from time to time there will be an item in the cart that he’s excited about and he’ll carry it around and be excited about bringing it home. When we get to the checkout, he still usually tries to keep walking, so we explain to him that, “No buddy, first we have to put it on the little belt and then we have to pay for it, THEN it’s ours to have.” That’s how it goes in the market.

That kind of transaction is unacceptable to the Lord concerning His house and His desire to draw all of mankind to Himself. He does not want people to think that they can or have to earn His grace or buy His forgiveness. The price of salvation has been paid. So freely we receive, therefore freely we should give. And when the Lord saw people putting up barriers between men and God in order to profit financially, He was assuredly going to put a stop to it.

In our own lives, in our own hearts, the Lord sticks His sword in so that He might warn us when we’ve brought something in that will introduce a barrier or distance between us and Him. Some habit. Some relationship. Some attitude. Some prodigal turn that we’re about to take. The Lord comes and He warns us and He pierces our hearts with His word and says, “Don’t do this. Don’t take that step. Don’t click send. Don’t let this leaven into your life.”

He does it by His Spirit and His word. As we read the Bible, as we hear it taught, God speaks and we must listen and when we feel as though God is speaking to our heart, that’s God working to speak to us and cleanse us.

Now, notice what Jesus said there after He had driven some of the merchants out, He said: ”[YOU] get these things out of here!”

The cleansing work of Christ is something we’re to partner in. We’re to sweep the house clean. We’re to guard our hearts. We’re to get that stuff out as the Lord reveals it and as He drive it out as well. It’s like what He did with the Children of Israel as they went into Canaan. He told them, “Listen, I’ve gone before you, I’ve sent hornets, I’ve sent fear to their hearts, one of you will chase a thousand, but YOU’VE got to conquer this land. YOU’VE got to drive out these enemies.” There’s an ongoing partnership between us and the Lord in this regard.

This is why we need to invite the Lord regularly to inspect us. To search us. And it’s why we need to go to the word and inspect ourselves. Putting ourselves in the text to evaluate how we measure up according to God’s commands and His explanations.

If we see warnings in Scripture, say about leaving our first love, and our first thought is, “That’s not me.” Then we’ve got to stop and soften our hearts and humble ourselves and instead say, “Lord, is it me? Have I allowed some corrupt thing into the outer court of my life? Have I taken some turn that is leading me toward a different destination than what You want for my life?” And the Lord is faithful to answer and to guide and to restore. He didn’t see the corruption in the temple and decide to burn it down. He cleansed it.

There’s going to be wear and tear in our spiritual lives. That’s just the nature of things. The Bible says that he who says he has no sin is a liar. But how wonderful it is that we have something like communion to give us an opportunity to look within as often as we want and evaluate our relationship with God, while remembering that He is the God who gave all to save us. There’s no shame in the inspection. But there is great opportunity for the Lord to help and restore.

John 2.17 – Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.”

This is such an interesting statement. “Passion for God’s house will consume Me.”

The word there where we see ‘passion’ (or yours might say ‘zeal’) is actually the word ‘jealousy.’ The Dictionary Of Bible Languages renders it as ‘extreme jealousy.’

Why did extreme jealousy for God’s house consume the Lord?

Because that’s where people met with God. He was jealous for the communion and interaction between God and people. The Lord will fiercely rage at anything which tries to separate people from Him. He says pretty serious things about it. Things like, “If you make someone stumble, it would be better for you to have a millstone hung around your neck and thrown into the ocean compared to what I will do to you.”

A fierce, passionate, loving jealousy for the House of God consumes our Savior.

This means a couple of things for us.

First, if our King has a passion for the Church, then we should cultivate a passion for the Church, locally and globally. Our gathering as a congregation matters and we should develop more and more of a passion for it.

Second, we should be very excited to remember that Christ’s death ushered in a new covenant where now we are the temple of the Lord. We are the objects of His fierce, jealous passion. There is nothing apathetic or passive about God’s love for you. He is consumed with His love for you. And He’s coming for you. That should change our lives.

Now, having seen Jesus, let’s turn this principle inward for a moment. Let’s turn this sword onto ourselves.

What are we jealous for? What passions consume us? What do we fiercely fight against with our time and our energy and our thoughts?

Because, end of the day, the priests were responsible for what was happening in the temple. Their focus had at some point shifted to wealth and convenience and power, rather than the God who had revealed Himself to them.

And in the end, they didn’t deal with this leaven that they had let in. As we compare the Gospels it seems that there were 2 cleansings like this. The first here in 28 AD and a second either in 30 or 33 AD that we read about in Matthew chapter 21.

Here Jesus said, “You’ve made my Father’s house a house of merchandise.” But a few years later He said, “This is a den of thieves.” The corruption spread. It worsened. It decayed.

There’s a rare condition called CIP: Congenital Insensitivity to Pain where where a person cannot feel (and has never felt) physical pain. It may seem almost comical to us, but it is, in fact, an incredibly dangerous condition.

Pain is useful to signal a problem. And using the analogy God gives us in the Scriptures, it’s important that we do not harden our hearts so that we feel when He pierces us with the sword of His word.

If we don’t sweep out leaven from our lives, it will cause changes and reactions that introduce distance between us and the Lord. We will develop a spiritual insensitivity to the pierce of God’s word. That piercing where He desires to prune or to true our lives. Our hearts can grow dull. Our hearing can become hard. And that’s not what the Lord wants for us. He’s jealous for us. He wants communion with us. He wants what the New Testament calls koinania, which is ‘the act of sharing in the activities or privileges of an intimate association, especially used of marriage and churches.’

So now, as we take this communion together, let’s remember what God has done and remember that He’s coming. Let’s remind ourselves that God is near and that He has a passionate, jealous love for us. And let’s sweep clean any leaven we might find as we examine ourselves and allow God to cleanse our hearts. There’s nothing for us to be ashamed of, because our God loves us and knows us and desires to repair and restore any area that may need it. We just need to allow Him to do so and partner with Him in the work.

Wine Making (John 2v1-11)

We are going to be spending some time with Jesus in John chapter 2 this evening.

Here we will see Jesus perform the first miracle of His incarnation, turning water into wine, to manifest His glory and to set the tone for His earthly ministry.

It’s a great story and has a lot for us to think about, so let’s look at our text and see what we see.

John 2.1-11 – On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”
Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”
His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”
Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. Jesus said to them,  “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them,  “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it. When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!” This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.

One of the biggest mistakes we can make as God’s people is thinking that the Lord isn’t interested in interacting with us on a day-by-day basis. As we see the things God says in His word and the way He reveals Himself to us it’s clear that He wants to continually speak to us and impact our lives and invest Himself into our hearts. The Bible says that there’s never a time when God leaves us or abandons us – He’s always there, ready to speak and ready to interact and be the focus of whatever is going on in our lives.

I think sometimes we perceive God as an auditor. That He makes the rounds from time to time and gives an evaluation and leaves us things to work on.

But that’s now how God presents Himself. He says that He is a loving Father and a jealous husband.

Spurgeon once wrote:

“The Lord Jesus Christ, of whom I now speak, is very jealous of your love, O believer.
Did he not choose you? He cannot bear that you should choose another. Did he not
buy you with his own blood? He cannot endure that you should think you are your
own, or that you belong to this world. He loved you with such a love that he could not
stop in heaven without you; he would sooner die than that you should perish; he
stripped himself to nakedness that he might clothe you with beauty; he bowed his
face to shame and spitting that he might lift you up to honor and glory, and he
cannot endure that you should love the world, and the things of the world. His love is
strong as death towards you.”

Now, we look at a story like the one in John 2 and, as Christians we get excited and desire that God would work in our lives powerfully and dramatically like He did at this wedding in Cana.

The good news is that God wants to work powerfully and supernaturally in our lives. He’s absolutely clear on that point – that He wants to take your life and my life and use it to confound this world and magnify Himself.

So, how does that happen?

Well, in this story there are 3 elements that paved the way for the Lord to manifest His power and glory. There were 3 things that the people around Jesus did that made this great sign possible. Not because God is limited or bound by us. It’s not that God is Tinkerbell and only has power when we clap our hands enough.

But the Lord chooses and delights to work through willing vessels. Some companies ship by land, some by sea, some through the air. The Lord can do all things, but He loves to ship through His people here on the earth.

And the people He uses are the people who are interested and have an active faith, people who pursue Him.

So, looking at this wedding we discover the 3 things that paved the way for God to work.

The first was that Jesus was invited to the party.

John 2.1-2 – On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding.

You know, you can look up Mickie and Minnie Mouse’s address at Disneyland and send them a wedding invitation when you get married. And if you do, they’ll send you a note and a signed picture and a little button. You can write to Cinderella and Price Charming too and get something a little different.

But, getting together a guest list for your wedding is an interesting process, isn’t it? There are people you absolutely have to invite, some people you wish you didn’t have to invite. There are people who are right on the cusp – you’d like them there, but you just might not have the room. It’s tough. People always end up getting their feelings hurt. There’s not a lot you can do about that.

On a devotional level, in regular life we send out invitations as well. Through our choices and activities and habits we invite certain guests into our lives and our homes.

I was thinking about this and I was realizing that I’m very quick to invite Jesus to the funerals of my life but sometimes I’m not as quick to invite Him to the weddings. Meaning that we’re fast to invite Jesus to deliver us from struggle or hurt or suffering, the tough parts of life, but sometimes we completely forget to invite Jesus to direct us in our celebrations and just our regular, everyday living.

But a significant key to this miracle taking place was that Jesus needed to be invited! If we want the Lord to work in our lives, we got to invite Him in to get His hands on us and be in control of our activities. We’ve got to determine every day to invite Him to speak and direct and send us as His servants. He knocks on the door of our hearts waiting for an invitation in.

John 2.3-4 – And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”
Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”

The situation was presented to Jesus and His response was, “What does your concern have to do with Me?”

That is a great question for us to filter our goals and our plans and our habits and our activities through. Whatever I’m doing, whatever I’m pursuing, what does Jesus have to do with it? How does this behavior or desire or activity or action concern Jesus and His Kingdom?

That’s an important question for us to consistently ask ourselves because it’s easy for us to get busy with stuff, even good stuff, but stuff that may not be the most needful.

Remember, Martha was busy with much service. It was a good thing to be busy with. But Jesus said Mary did the more needful thing, she did the better thing by concerning herself with the presence of Jesus.

The best things we can do, the best investments we can make are the things that concern Christ and His Kingdom. And we will discover those things as we invite the Lord to have His way in us.

The second element that paved the way for the Lord to do this great work was that the servants made what they had available.

John 2.5-6 – His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”
Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece.

God can speak a whole cosmos into existence out of nothing, but when He works in our lives, He loves to work with what we’ve got.

Some people have much, some have little. There’s always someone who has much more, there’s always someone who has much less. The amount is inconsequential in the hands of God. What matters is what we make available to Him.

Whether it was the rod in Moses’ hand or the one sword in all Israel that Jonathan had, David’s sling and 5 smooth stones or the widow’s few drops of oil, the young boy’s sack lunch of 5 loaves and 2 fish, or 6 plain water pots, we all have something in our hands, at our disposal, meager as it may be, but the Lord sees it and says, “That’s what I want to use to manifest My glory…can I have it?”

It’s not that He needs it. It’s that He wants us to orient our lives around Him, making anything and everything available to be filled by Him so that it can then be poured out to others. And nothing is too meager. A little river rock was used to save a nation. A little cup of oil saved a family.

But if we want God to work in us and through us then we have to give Him controlling interest over the things in our lives. Our hearts, yes, but then as He grows in us the Lord must have controlling interest over our time and our treasure and our talents. Our bank accounts, our hobbies, our energy, none of those things are meant to be separated from our faith. They’re meant to be submitted to God so that He can take them and supernaturally multiply them for His purposes in blessing others and rescuing the lost. And it is an exciting thing to realize that God can take something as insignificant as your lunch and use it to manifest His glory. But only if we make those things available to the Lord and not try to hoard them away from Him.

So we see that first, you might say they were agreeable to the Lord. Jesus was invited to the wedding. Then they made the pots available. And third, they were biddable as servants.

John 2.7-8 – Jesus said to them,  “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them,  “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it.

Jesus said, “Do this,” and they did it. Will we do the Lord’s bidding?

These servants really shine in this story. There’s no protest. No doubt. No criticism. Just obedience.

And you can see that it was a diligent obedience. They filled the water pots up to the brim. It wasn’t just “Ok, I’ll do what You say.” It was, “I will obey as much as I possibly can. And when You give me something else to do, I’ll do it.” “Draw some out now and take it to the master of the feast,” Jesus said.

A person who loves God is going to obey His commandments. The Bible says it again and again. And not obligatorily, but diligently and passionately.

2 John 1.6a – This is love, that we walk according to His commandments.

We’ve got to drive out the idea that we have any independence from God. We belong to Him and are sustained by Him. He says in His word that we live by every word that proceeds from His mouth. So, if we want to enjoy the abundant life that He has planned, and if we want the Lord to work in our lives, then we’ve got to obey and do His bidding.

Any way of life that only has me crossing paths with God from time to time is not a way that leads to what the Lord wants for us. It can’t lead to fulfillment or reward. Instead, it will lead us to the same place the Rich Young Ruler ended up – sorrowful and distant from Jesus.

What God wants is to interact with us and impact our lives every day, not only so that we can grow and bear fruit and be blessed, but so that others might see Him as His glory is manifest in our circumstances.

We see that in verse 9:

John 2.9-11 – When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!” This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.

It’s interesting that this is the first miraculous sign that Jesus performed as the GodMan. This was the beginning of His public ministry.

What would we have chosen for His first miracle? We like to open big. Whether it’s a batting order or the start of a record or the beginning of a trial. That opening sets a tone. I don’t think we would’ve chosen this miracle as the one that starts them all off.

F.B. Meyer comments on this and says:

“Is it not wonderful that this was our Lord’s first miracle! Had we been asked to select the one which seemed most appropriate to stand as the frontispiece of his earthly ministry, we should have selected the raising of Lazarus, the calming of the storm, or the feeding of the hungry crowds; but who would have chosen this? The inventive genius of man would have conceived an introductory scene which combined the chief features of the Transfiguration and of the giving of the law. How different is the simplicity of this incident!”

Jesus is many things. But His intent most of all is to be God with us. This scene in Cana shows the heart of a God whose desire is to spend our lives loving us. He wants to be with us today. He wants to go somewhere with us and use something in our lives for His glory and His purposes. He is concerned with filling us up and spilling us out. And He is able to do that if we will invite Him to spend today with us, if we’ll make our lives and everything in them available to His controlling interest and if we will do His bidding as diligent, loving, obedient servants.

So now, as we spend time in communion with the Lord, talking through prayer to a God who is here with us even now, let’s allow Him to fill us up and manifest His glory in and through our lives.